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UK business leaders flay move to close India offices

February 09, 2010 17:28 IST

British business leaders have criticised London Mayor Boris Johnson for closing down the Delhi and Mumbai offices of the London Development Authority as a cost-cutting measure.

The offices were set up by Johnson's predecessor, Ken Livingstone, to help forge close trade and business links between London and India, but they have been closed following a recent review.

Business leaders warned that closing the offices to save money would send out the wrong signals to potential investors.

Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "It is essential that we maintain offices in Delhi and Mumbai so that we can continue to market London in one of the fastest growing economies in the world. If we are not out there selling London as the best place in the world to do business, our international rivals will be more than happy to fill the vacuum."

Official figures reveal that India is the second largest foreign investor in London, after the US, with the Indian-owned companies generating over pound 14.4 billion a year.

Graham Capper, of business group London First, added: "If representatives and offices in India are adding value then they should be retained there's no point saving cash by cutting them if it costs us investment and jobs in London."

In a submission to the review, the London of Chamber of Commerce and Industry stated, "Closing the offices in India and China as part of a cost-cutting exercise would be short-sighted, send entirely wrong signals to potential investors and importers in two of London's most important potential markets."

It added: "The Greater London Authority may save 1 million pounds, but it is London firms that may ultimately end up paying a much higher price.

If the Mayor is not out there promoting London, someone else will be promoting New York, Paris, or Sydney instead."

Labour Assembly member Murad Qureshi said: "It is disgraceful that the closure of the GLA's offices in India has been carried out by the back door, without Londoners being informed about the decision to mothball them. Developing economies like India's have grown in global importance as they have escaped the worst of the recession."

The Mayor's decision to allow the Mumbai and Delhi offices to close is utterly irresponsible, he added.

Prasun Sonwalkar in London
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