Levelling Up in London - Phase 1 Report: Challenges for London and Londoners

What you need to know:

  • With its focus on addressing geographic inequality, the government’s levelling up agenda has paid little attention to inequalities within London and the difficulties that many Londoners face.
  • This report, produced by Centre for London and funded by Trust for London, sets out what London’s needs are, how they affect Londoners, and the challenge of getting a hearing for these issues.
  • The report ask the government to take these needs into account when making decisions about funding for London.

London has acute levelling up needs, alongside the rest of the country. Some Londoners are very wealthy, but others live in deep poverty: by many measures, London has the highest poverty rates in the UK. Child poverty rates are particularly high. Poverty in the capital is not distributed evenly: people from some ethnic groups, women, families with children, and disabled people are at higher risk of living in poverty. For many people, pay and benefits in London are not high enough to meet the extra costs of living in the city – and the cost-of-living crisis will make their situation harder.

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Key Findings

Levelling up has great potential

Levelling up could make a positive difference across the UK – too many people, including some in London, are held back by the circumstances of the place they live – meaning their talents go underused. The UK’s economy is over-reliant on London, and this drives up housing costs here: as a result, far too many people face long and expensive commutes, live in poor quality or overcrowded homes, or are forced into poverty by their housing costs.

But the current agenda is ignoring challenges in London

The government’s levelling up agenda has taken a geographical focus and paid little attention to challenges within London. By many measures, poverty in London is the highest of all English regions, and rates are likely to increase this year as the cost of living crisis deepens. Many of the most deprived areas in England are in London.

This could be dangerous for the whole country

The report highlights concern that government could choose to cut funding for London – making life even harder for the most vulnerable people who live here. Reducing investment in London, particularly in housing and public transport, could also make it harder for businesses that operate here to make a profit. London contributes more in tax to the Treasury than it receives in spending, so reducing the success of London’s businesses risks lower public funding for the whole country.

Not a zero-sum game

There is no limit on success for different places in the UK. Hartlepool can succeed along with Haringey, Swansea along with Sutton. London is a global city – in many cases its competitors for investment and jobs are Paris and New York, not other parts of the UK. We are most likely to see strong, equitable economic growth if we bring together the talents and contributions of every part of the country, rather than setting towns and cities against each other.

Recommendations

We face real challenges as a country and will do best if we face them together. The report calls for the government to:

  • Recognise the challenges faced by Londoners living in tough circumstances when they consider how best to level up the country
  • And avoid divisive rhetoric about the differences between Londoners and people living elsewhere in the country.

29 June 2022