We know a great deal about poverty in London. Over the years since the famous maps of Charles Booth in 1889 marked areas by the income and social class of their inhabitants, Londoners have been only too aware of the disparity between the filthy rich and the abjectly poor. In modern London, the extremes are only too evident and often they are found cheek by jowl. In Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, the pressure of this polarisation is particularly stark with some of the worst social housing in the capital alongside multi-million pound homes for sale across the world. For a city vying for the title of Global Capital, we are a long way short of finding a fair solution to our social life!

Booth Poverty Map by London Permaculture CC FlickrThe reality of poverty in London is often hidden to those whose life is better healed. However the statistics show only too clearly how painfully unequal our communities have become and how the chasm between the richest 10% and the poorest 10% is growing ever wider. London’s poverty profile offers a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the state of poverty indicators across all the boroughs of our city. The site also compares and contrasts Southwark with other boroughs both nearby like Lambeth and the City and further away like Hounslow and Richmond. If you have not taken a look recently at your neighbours’ circumstances, London’s poverty profile offers a valuable insight into the lives of thousands of other London citizens.

Making London Fairer

What can be done to turn the tide on this polarisation of our community? The Changing London project has set itself the goal of crowd-sourcing ideas for improving London for residents, businesses and visitors alike. The team behind the project are now working up more specific papers from the mass of citizen-led proposals and presenting them as an agenda for the next Mayor to be elected by us all in 2016. As the person with the largest direct electoral mandate in the UK, the Mayor has real clout when it comes to social and economic policy. Whoever fills the shoes of Boris Johnson, they will be keen to present policies that are visionary, popular and far-reaching; this is where the Changing London project finds its focus.

Sale @ Harrods,London by -Reji CC FlickrSo what do they propose? You can read the whole paper fee of charge and join the debate online. But as a taster, here are three  of their proposals:

  • The Mayor should push for a living wage in the lowest-paying sectors and properly enforced London and sector specific minimum wages, stronger trade unions, more support to improve skills and lower living costs, and routes into decent jobs particularly for our young people.
  • The Mayor should campaign for company pay ratios and greater transparency on executive pay, workplace democracy and higher taxes on wealth.
  • Houses in London are for people to live in and there must be enough for everyone. They should no longer be mistaken for investment vehicles. We need a London Housing Challenge, with senior representatives from across the sectors led by the Mayor, to agree the most ambitious housing plan for London since the 60s, and set about building it.

Do you agree with the ideas in the A Fair City discussion paper? Do you think they don’t go far enough or are the ideas all over ambitious?

Do you want to see a fairer SE16? What can we do together to make it happen? How can we bridge the gap between low-income households and high earners?