London’s success means the government is ignoring it

Anthony Browne
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IS London too successful for its own good?” What a thought! Like the Mayor, I have always believed it possible to have your cake and eat it. A report out last week from Citigroup proclaimed an ever more successful future for London – predicting that its economy would grow more than any other city in the world over the next 15 years.

There are strong reasons to invest here, but we should not forget about a grimmer reality: London is two cities. We may be the economic capital of Britain, but we are also the poverty capital. From the streets of Lambeth or Newham, the success of the glitzy centre can seem hopelessly irrelevant.

The government might worry about unemployment in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but actually the unemployment rate in London is higher. Joblessness is higher in Hackney than it is in Liverpool. London’s youth unemployment, at 23 per cent, is far higher than the national average of 18 per cent. London has the highest rate of severe child poverty in the UK; over half the top twenty boroughs with severe poverty in the UK are in London.

Relieving poverty and unemployment drives a lot of what the Mayor does, including the campaign for more apprenticeships, work experience, our promotion of the London Living Wage, and support for concessionary transport fares. It is why we are lobbying government to ensure welfare reforms take account of London issues.

But the problems of poverty and unemployment in London should also be borne in mind by national policymakers. There is a strain of thought that London is strong enough to look after itself, that all government help should be targeted at the North. The government’s tax break for start ups only applies to entrepreneurs outside London and the South East (despite the fact that more small companies fail in London than elsewhere); there are those who believe that London should be excluded from bids to the Regional Growth Fund. London businesses are successful, but every single penny of tax they pay – including business rates, income tax, national insurance, VAT, corporation tax and stamp duty – goes to the national government. Only the national government can use that fiscal bonanza to help reduce deprivation in the capital. We are confident that the strengths of London will ensure that its economy has a bright future. But we have to make sure that all Londoners have a stake in that success. No Londoner should be left behind.

Anthony Browne is an adviser to the Mayor of London