26th March 2020

Dear Masters, Prime Wardens, and Upper Bailiff,

As I write to you, we face a challenge of unprecedented scale. I hope that you are all staying safe, looking after yourselves, and following the guidance of Public Health England. To cancel our dinner together, while disappointing, was our only option.

For each of us, our year in office will now be defined by our response to the coronavirus crisis. This is not a situation that any of us would have chosen, but it is the situation that we have been given, so it is our task to pull together and respond with care, humanity, and vision.

The situation changes every day and it appears that this crisis will lead to lasting and fundamental changes to how we live, travel, and do business. When the crisis subsides and a “new normal” emerges, what lessons will we and our successors take from our leadership at this time? I would very much like to hear your thoughts and suggestions.
We are seeing examples of positive action. The City of London Corporation is helping SMEs in the City, not least with rent relief for small business tenants, and the City Bridge Trust has donated £1m to an emergency support fund for volunteer organisations. The email that accompanied this letter contains further information about how our organisations can coordinate our philanthropic activities.

In our positions of leadership, what more can we do to alleviate the burden of coronavirus for those whom we support and serve? I am sure we are all already thinking about our employees, our contracts and supply chains, and the charities we support. What are our responsibilities to these communities?

The best courses of action may not be immediately clear; as we know, the situation remains highly changeable. However, I am keen to hear your ideas and for us, as a community, to share best practice and to help one another. We need to ensure that the Livery’s response to the coronavirus crisis can muster the full force of our collective experience and expertise. I would be delighted to act as a convenor to receive and share innovative suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you. 
After all, our Livery community is resilient. We have weathered the storms of 700 years – we have endured disasters, wars, and crises. Over the centuries, we have learned that we are strongest when we pull together. 
The speech that I had planned to deliver at our dinner would have emphasised the strength of the Livery when we work side-by-side. I would have updated you on the Pan-Livery initiative and its two strands: the communications project, which will issue a third survey at an appropriate time; and the philanthropic work with the charity Bounce Back. On the latter, the pilot scheme is now fully funded and receiving offers of employment for the 40 prison-leavers whom we are helping back into work. This is a marvellous achievement.

When we emerge from this crisis, our world will be changed. Whole sectors and industries will need to adapt permanently. Businesses will need to be much more innovative in how they operate. It is our responsibility, in the present, to show the leadership that will shape the world to come.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Alderman William Russell

Accompanying email

Dear All,

I hope you are well and keeping safe. The Lord Mayor would like to pass his well wishes to you and your families during this time, the decision to cancel this year’s Dinner to Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff was taken with the health and wellbeing of all attendees at its heart. In light of this, please find attached a letter from the Lord Mayor about how the Livery might respond to the COVID-19 crisis, in place of the speech he would have given at the dinner. We understand that this does not replace the dinner and opportunity to meet, but hope that it sheds some light on the situation at present.

Further to the attached, in light of this rapidly changing situation, we at the Corporation are aware that a coordinated response to philanthropy is key.

The City Bridge Trust (CBT) and Greater London Authority have both contributed £1m each to the London Funders Collaboration Fund, which is referenced in the following link: https://londonfunders.org.uk/our-blog/new-emergency-support-fund-announced-help-community-and-voluntary-organisations

If you would like to donate or help those affected by COVID-19, I would urge you to explore some of the charities and initiatives listed below:

You could consider signing up to the London Funder Pledge which has attracted well over 100 signatories including CBT, Comic Relief, Children in Need and others, and pledges funder flexibility in terms of their funding partnerships, recognising the unprecedented pressures facing the sector.  You can sign this whether or not you choose to contribute to the London Fund, and whether or not your funding is focused in London:https://londonfunders.org.uk/about/covid-19

It is also important to note the National Emergencies Trust Appeal which was launched yesterday – this enables anyone who would like to contribute to an equivalent fund with a national rather than London-specific reach: https://nationalemergenciestrust.org.uk/

As always, the Lord Mayor is overwhelmed by the generosity of the Livery and would like to thank you in advance for any support you can lend at this time.

Kind regards,


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