THE BLOG

Why London's Future Success Is at Risk

21/03/2016 13:03 GMT | Updated 19/03/2017 09:12 GMT

I love London.

It's a diverse, vibrant place to live and work. A capital that boasts some of the world's best architecture, award-winning centres of learning and is forever reinventing itself in the pursuit of being the best.

But is it a fair city? This is one of the questions I've been debating with fellow Londoners in my role as chairman of the London Fairness Commission.

Over the past year, we've brought together hundreds of people who live in the capital to listen to their ideas of what fairness is and what's needed to build a fairer city. We've also consulted with experts including those from the world of health, business and the charity sector.

Our findings published this week give a very clear message.

The consensus is that London does need to be fairer, and action must be taken now or the future success of the city is at risk.

The price people are paying in return for living in one of the world's leading centres for global commerce is extortionate. It is the high costs of housing, transport and childcare which are the key areas for concern.

Tourists may gaze in admiration at the grand stucco-fronted properties of Mayfair or Pimlico. Yet many who live in our historic capital are struggling to even get a foot on the housing ladder. In fact, would-be homeowners here need to earn £77,000 before they can consider buying a place to call their own.

The amount Londoners on average salaries pay out on rent- nearly half their pay- far exceeds that spent by those living elsewhere.

The high cost of childcare presents some parents with an unenviable dilemma. Those on low wages have to choose between either working in order to cover the expense of paying a childminder or nursery, or giving up their job altogether.

As for travel, London has the most expensive public transport in the world. A Tube ticket for example is more than twice the price of a comparable fare in almost every other major city in the world.

Critics would argue that the high cost of living is outweighed by the fact Londoners benefit from higher salaries.

Yes, residents do earn more on average than the rest of the country.

However, that extra sum does not begin to bridge the gap between earnings and housing costs for example.

While London is home to the highest number of billionaires, there's no escaping the fact it has the highest rate of children and older people living in poverty.

It was social reformer Charles Booth who popularised the concept of a 'poverty line', the level of income required to stay beyond starvation.

Our commission is the first inquiry into 'fairness' for 125 years since Booth mapped London poverty in 1889.

The evidence we've gathered suggests that the capital is in danger of becoming a playground for the super-rich, a treadmill for the middle-classes and a workhouse for the poor.

What we need now is action from both policy-makers and the next mayor of London, whoever that may be.

We need to deal with the cost of letting agent's fees and charges.

Young people in the capital desperately need opportunities, including more work experience which is crucial in providing them with a pathway to their first job.

The time is right too for a new age of philanthropy. The legacies of social visionaries like George Peabody still benefit Londoners to this day, and the same could be achieved in the 21st century.

We need London's wealthiest residents and businesses to come together to improve the welfare of others.

It would be their chance to give back and ensure all Londoners receive a fairer deal in life.

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