More than two million Londoners are still living below the breadline, a damning new report reveals. Research by the Trust for London reveals that 2.3 million Londoners are currently living in poverty, including 700,000 children and 200,000 pensioners.
Although the poverty rate has fallen slightly in the last six years, from 29 percent to 27 percent, the depth of poverty experienced by hard-up Londoners is worsening. The proportion of London households whose income is below 50 percent of median income, rather than the 60% official measure, has risen by 1.5 percentage points.
London had the highest unemployment rate (6 percent) of any UK region in the three months to April 2017, while the UK unemployment rate has fallen to just 4.6 percent. However, data from the Trust for London suggests that moving into employment should no longer be seen as a guaranteed route out of poverty, as working-age adults account for 24 percent of all Londoner’s living below the breadline.
The trust says “work is not enough to help them avoid financial struggle”. A shocking 58 percent of Londoners living in poverty come from working households, compared to 44 percent in 2007 and just 24 percent two decades ago.
This is at least partly due to a surge in the number of workers in temporary employment, which as risen to a record high of 260,000.
Worryingly, 70 percent of children in poverty in London are in a working family, compared to a 55 percent average in the rest of England, but the Trust for London argues that the Capital’s high levels of poverty are largely due to high housing costs.
The trust explains: “Private rents in London are more than twice the average for England. A two-bedroom home to rent in London at the cheapest quarter of the market costs £1,250 a month, compared with £500 for England.
“The growth in private rents over the past five years has also been faster in London: 20% compared with an average across England of 8%. The cheapest fifth of rents have increased faster than private rents overall.
“Social rents have also grown significantly over the last five years. Rents for local authority social housing have increased by around 30% in London and England. Housing association rents have increased 26% in London and 19% across England.
“Over this time, the number of London children living in the social rented sector who are in poverty has started to increase again – up 40,000 to 290,000.”
Mubin Haq, Director of Policy and Grants at Trust for London, said: “Despite record levels of Londoners in work, poverty rates have only nudged down slightly over the last few years.
“Over two million Londoners are struggling to make ends meet. That’s more than the entire populations of Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Newcastle combined.
“The reality remains, that for many work does not pay enough, or offer the security that people need. We need more action to increase wages and improve good work standards if poverty is to further reduce.
“London also remains highly unequal, home to many billionaires as well as millions who are struggling to make ends meet.
“On the plus side, income inequality has reduced over the last five years, though the gap is still huge. In relation to wealth, inequality has grown significantly. The wealth for someone just in the top 10% is 295 times higher than someone just in the bottom 10%. A few years earlier it was 160 times higher. This means the bottom half of Londoners just own 5% on all the wealth, whereas the top 10% own over half.”
Adam Tinson, Senior Researcher and lead author of the report, from the New Policy Institute added: “Despite its glaring prosperity and privilege, London remains the capital of English poverty, due mainly to the high rents paid by the half of all households who rent their homes.
“Those who rent from a private landlord have long faced high rents. More recently, housing association and council tenants have seen their rents go up rapidly.
“Poverty in London is not just a surprise for the rest of England. For example, large and leafy outer London boroughs like Bromley and Barnet actually have more residents living in poverty than higher profile inner ones like Kensington and Chelsea.
“And as this report shows, it is often these outer boroughs where other disadvantages associated with being poor, for example, lower levels of educational attainment on average, are at their greatest.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “Sadiq Khan was elected with a mandate to be the mayor for all Londoners.
“He is committed to doing all he can to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and ensure prosperity is shared. And he is appalled that, in a city as prosperous as London, some people have to rely on foodbanks to feed their families.
“That is why the mayor intends to introduce a range of targeted strategies to improve economic fairness and reduce poverty, is doing everything within his power to build more truly affordable homes for Londoners and has delivered a range of measures to make getting around the city cheaper, including freezing all TfL fares and introducing the Hopper fare.
“He is also urging all businesses across London to pay their staff at least the London living wage.”