In 2000 I began working with the Greater London Authority (GLA) under the radical Mayor Ken Livingstone. We established an Economic Intelligence Unit and I held the brief first for the London Plan, then the Creative Industries and later, the Living Wage. Work at the GLA was evidence-based and data-driven. This paper, part of a regular series produced by the Intelligence Unit, provides detailed data on employment in London derived from two sources: the business survey, which queries employers, and the Labour Force Survey, which queries people. In theory for a country these two are the same, or differ only for statistical reasons. For a city this is not so, because of the effects of commuting. The residents of a city are not the same as those who work in it. For London, with its huge commuter workforce, this was of major strategic importance. As the work developed, we had to account for the difference between the two and encountered a puzzling discrepancy, which the ONS was already aware of. This paper, written by Peter Urwin and edited by Alan Freeman, includes our early attempts to resolve this problem.
The issue of commuting later led us to investigate the ‘true economic size’ of London and involved us in Europe-wide projects to secure a consistent basis for defining the size of a city which would provide for reliable and consistent benchmarking and comparisons.