More poverty in London than any region, study shows

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Poverty remains higher in London than any other UK region, according to a leading charity in the capital.

Now 28% of Londoners – some 2.5 million people – are living in poverty, compared to 22% of people across the UK, the Trust for London’s poverty profile claims.

But that was before the Covid-19 outbreak – and the charity’s chief executive Bharat Mehta says the data should now be seen as a “baseline” because “everything has changed with coronavirus”.

He said: “Households from across the income spectrum are on the precipice – many will have fallen over by the time this crisis ends.

“More people will be unemployed, relying on the safety net of social security. More evictions, despite the Government’s promises, are highly likely.”

High living costs in the capital are a major driver of poverty, with essential spending up to 58% higher in London than the rest of the country, according to the report.

Housing costs in particular are driving the problem: the lowest income Londoners spend more than half of their incomes on housing, compared to just over a third in the rest of England.

And 56,000 London households are currently in temporary accommodation, up 30% in the last five years.

Green assembly member and party co-leader Sian Berry said decent housing is “a fundamental right” and it is “appalling” that many residents pay huge amounts for “shoddy” homes.

Ms Berry said the problem will get “much worse” during lockdown, with families trapped in their homes and facing cuts to their incomes that leave them struggling to afford rent.

Conservative assembly member Andrew Boff said the Mayor’s “sluggish” record on house-building has added to London’s “poverty blight”.

He said: “It’s unacceptable that nearly a quarter of London’s children live in overcrowded conditions.

“This is a symptom of London’s housing crisis which Sadiq Khan has exacerbated with his decision to scrap the affordable family-sized homes target.”

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In-work poverty has also grown rapidly in the capital, the report found: over a million adults – or 74% of those living in poverty – have a job, up from 58% three year ago.

And London is a deeply unequal city – the poorest half of Londoners have less than 7% of the city’s wealth, while the top 10% have more than 40%.

Different boroughs face vastly different levels of poverty – in Tower Hamlets and Newham, more than 50 per cent of children are growing up in poverty.

Other east London and inner city areas are also badly affected, including Hackney, Islington, Westminster, Lambeth and Camden.

Unmesh Desai, London Assembly member for east London – including the City, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Barking, said councils need more Government support to tackle the pandemic.

He said local leaders know their communities “like the back of their hand” and are best placed to fight the virus and help local people recover in the longer term.

And Brent council leader and London Councils welfare lead Muhammed Butt said boroughs were “hugely concerned” that coronavirus would make poverty in the capital “even worse”.

He said “Too many Londoners already live lives plagued by insecurity, including low-wage work and homelessness, but Covid-19 has only ramped up the pressures further.”

Mr Butt said councils need more powers to tackle inequality locally, and the pandemic must not be a “distraction” from this “crucial national agenda”.

Liberal Democrat assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said the report made for “depressing reading”.

She said: “There is a huge chasm in the life chances facing those that are well off and those that come from a background of poverty.

“For far too long London has relied on its economic growth on the back of a growing number of low paid jobs.”

A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan said there was “no excuse” for poverty in a city as wealthy as London.

He said: “The impact of the coronavirus is exposing these inequalities even further after a decade of austerity and Government cuts to essential services.

“The Mayor is clear that we must we all work together to tackle this virus and then use this as a catalyst for far-reaching and fundamental change.” 

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