Three things the Mayor can do to tackle poverty and inequality in London

Following the announcement that Sadiq Khan will be the Mayor of London for the next three years, our Director of Policy Manny Hothi reflects on what he can do to tackle poverty and inequality in the capital, highlighting three key actions.

Sadiq Khan’s re-election as Mayor of London has been confirmed. Trust for London congratulates him on being elected for a second term of office as Mayor. As Londoners look ahead to life beyond the pandemic, Mayor Khan will be all too aware of the challenges that this city, which has the highest levels of poverty in the country, faces.

But the election of the Mayor and the emergence from lockdown also provide the impetus for action. Unusually, this Mayoral term will be for three rather than four years. So, in the spirit of symmetry, here are three practical things the Mayor can do in the next three years to tackle poverty and inequality:

1. Help local communities to play their role in tackling the housing crisis

London’s housing crisis has become all-encompassing, no longer just affecting the poorest.

Whilst it is hard to see a way out, we must not give up hope and local communities have an important role to play.

In his last term, the Mayor introduced the London Housing Panel, helping to engage community organisations in Mayoral housing policy. There were also other initiatives like ballots for estate regeneration. But the chips are still stacked against low-income communities when it comes to housing.

More needs to be done to provide them with the technical skills they need to navigate the complexities of regeneration. We have funded the Town and Country Planning Association to support the growth of Planning Aid for London, a long-standing, under-resourced service that connects volunteer planning professionals with low-income communities that need planning support. The Mayor should look at ways initiatives like this can be scaled up so that they can reach many more communities.

The Mayor and his team also need to be standard-bearers for ensuring that housing developers do not play the system to extract maximum profit, at the expense of building genuinely affordable housing. One way that we think this can be done is by helping community groups to identify when the relationships between housing developers and planning authorities are a bit too close for comfort.

With our funding, Transparency International UK are beginning to support local communities to investigate this relationship and expose behaviour that has no place in the type of democracy we want to live in.

2. Maintain a strong focus on racial justice and support minority voices in the policy debate

Black Lives Matter, alongside the disproportionate impact of Covid on many ethnic minorities, have put racial disparities back on the agenda.

We can expect that racial justice will be a strong feature of the Mayor’s next term.

At a time when the UK’s debate around race has become horribly polarised, his leadership will be essential.

But his leadership needs to be informed by the voices of those communities affected, and minority communities should be included more in policy discussions. Public institutions can fall into the trap of characterising minority-led organisations as being good for delivering services, but not so good at policy. This is something we want to see change.

We recently funded a ground-breaking allyship between Transform Drugs Policy Foundation and Blaksox, a network of Black community organisations, to make sure London’s Black communities are involved in the debate around the legalisation of cannabis. It has since materialised that the Mayor intends to set up a commission on legalisation. Drugs policy has historically been led by White voices – the Mayor can redress this by giving Black communities a seat at the table.

3. Make London a Living Wage City

In a city with such high living costs, far too many households are getting by without an adequate income.

The Living Wage, unlike the national minimum wage, is based on the cost of living, but currently around one in five Londoners are being paid less than the London Living Wage which stands at £10.85 an hour.

At Citizen UK’s Mayoral Assembly in April, Sadiq Khan committed to working with civil society to make London a Living Wage City. Now elected, the Mayor should follow through with this commitment and aspire to getting everyone in the city paid at least the real London Living Wage. As my colleague Klara Skrivankova argued in a recent blog post, it is a triple win, not only for individuals living in an expensive city, but also employers and the wider economy.

Led by Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation, the campaign for a real Living Wage is one of the most successful civil society campaigns of the past 20 years. But it is unfinished business. By working with civil society, businesses and public institutions, the Mayor can spearhead a campaign that gets the job done. The Trust is committed to playing its part in making London a Living Wage City.

10 May 2021