London is in need of some attention from Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda, as the capital had the highest poverty rates even before Covid-19 – a pandemic which has widened existing inequalities across the board in the UK.
Three in five, or 58 per cent, of people in poverty in inner London are in a working household according to a new report.
The research, by WPI Economics and local authority partnership Central London Forward, also found that the capital had been hit the hardest by climbing unemployment figures, as Londoners on related benefits surged more than 120 per cent, nearly double the increase seen across the rest of the UK.
It comes as Paul Scully, the minister for London, cautioned that London’s post-pandemic recovery is expected to lag behind the rest of the country.
“London tends to bounce back quickest after recessions,” he said. “This time, it’s going to be the last to bounce back; it’s three times the size of the next European city.”
The capital ground to a halt when the government imposed emergency coronavirus measures last year, which saw Londoners social lives, businesses and work severely impacted.
In comparison with other cities in the UK, London is the wealthiest. But it also has the highest levels of wealth inequality of any region of the UK.
Food banks in the capital distributed more than 210,000 food packages in the six months to September 2020 – a 128 per cent rise in comparison with the same period the year before, according to Trust for London’s latest Poverty Profile report.
“If you go from Westminster, where all my colleagues clearly are, and you go on the Jubilee line: for every station towards the East End, you lose a year on your life expectancy – it’s that stark,” Scully added.
The joint report revealed that while London’s least wealthy 30 per cent of households own just one per cent of the capital’s wealth – the top 10 per cent of households own nearly half, or 43 per cent.
Chair of Central London Forward and leader of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Elizabeth Campbell added: “As this report shows, while London is a wealthy city, it is also a deeply unequal one. Any focus on levelling up must not overlook the inequalities that exist within our capital.
“We want to work with government to drive an inclusive recovery in the capital, and to support levelling up both within London and across the whole of the UK.”
The inequality report comes ahead of the government’s spending review later this month, which is expected to outline the prime minister’s white paper for levelling up, alongside its spending plans for the next three years.
Director of WPI Economics, Matthew Oakley said: “Despite being a powerhouse of the UK economy, central London has some of the most inequitable outcomes in the UK and has been disproportionately impacted by the health, economic and social fallout from the pandemic.
“As we begin to look to the recovery, it’s essential that the findings from this report guide policymakers to ensure that we build a fairer, as well as stronger, economy.”