THE BLOG

A Fair City for All

21/04/2016 17:29

"Life is difficult, I'm still living day to day and essentials like school uniform put me into a financial worry, as I know I can't afford it. I don't need emergency food anymore, but that doesn't mean that I'm not struggling." Lorna is a mother of three supported by Oxfam partner First Love Foundation in Tower Hamlets. Lorna is in work but living in one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK and still needs the support of the foundation.

In two weeks, voters like Lorna go to the polls to vote for the fifth Mayor of London and London Assembly members. The candidates are going head to head in debates but one of the most debilitating issues facing Londoners today - inequality - is largely absent.

The city has the greatest extremity of poverty and wealth in the UK, with around 2.3million people living below the poverty line - 27% of London's population. Of these, 1.2million - more than half - are in work, a growing trend which has seen a 70 per cent increase over a ten-year period.

With poverty statistics this sobering in a city boasting 80 billionaires, you would hope that mayoral candidates would prioritise policies to address poverty and the gap between the rich and the rest. However with all the main parties' manifestos now released, the promises that are included are dwarfed by the gaps. Whilst four candidates champion the Living Wage, on the subject of inequality and the role of the capital's financial sector, the rhetoric is patchy and the substance largely lacking.

Oxfam is calling for the next Mayor of London to be at the forefront of efforts to address poverty and appoint an Inequality Commissioner to make closing the gap between the haves and have-nots a policy priority. We want a Commissioner to develop a strategy for addressing the inequality and poverty in the capital, develop a decent work standard that includes hours, pay and progression and work with others to review the role of the financial sector in London - particularly the hiding of wealth in tax havens - and make recommendations on how to reform this.

We recently commissioned research which showed that 70% of Londoners think the gap between the richest and poorest is too high, with 67% thinking the current levels of wealth inequality are damaging to the capital's future. Reducing the gap between the richest and poorest came fifth out of sixteen issues when Londoners were asked what was important to them when deciding who to vote for. Housing topped the list, coinciding with the Panama Papers revelation that more than £170billion of UK property is now held overseas; with most of it in London. Unprecedented house price inflation has put home ownership out of reach for tens of thousands of Londoners - another sign of inequality which shows no sign of slowing.

It's not just a moral issue, high levels of inequality are a problem for economies and London's is no exception. When there is a 25-year life expectancy gap between the poorest and richest wards, when seven local authority areas have the highest rate of child poverty in the country and when 100,000 people had to rely on food bank parcels in the last year, London's economic and social model is clearly not working.

We should all be angry that such high levels of deprivation exist alongside such wealth in the capital. The new London Mayor must tackle this crisis as a matter of urgency to ensure that prosperity is equally shared and millions of Londoners are not left behind.

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