The Autumn Statement (Supplementary) [5]

Session date: 
December 17, 2014
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

In response to an earlier question, you called the Autumn Statement an ‘exceptional Autumn Statement for London’.  Yet with four in ten children in London living in poverty, the Chancellor failed to mention child poverty in his statement for the second year in a row.  With further cuts to Universal Credit in the Autumn Statement, which are likely to impact on the poorest children ‑‑

 

Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Can I just remind you this is about the impact on London transport?  I am sure you will ‑‑

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Steve O’Connell talked about the ‘growth zone’ in Croydon and I want to pick up on that.

 

Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Yes.  Just see if you can mention the word ‘transport’ in this question and I will let you do it.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Children living in poverty are not able to afford to use transport.

 

Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Very good.

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for The Autumn Statement (Supplementary) [5]

Answer for The Autumn Statement (Supplementary) [5]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Thank you, Fiona.  Very good, Fiona.  Thank you.  A brilliant question.  Actually, London remains ‑‑

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Can I complete it?  I have not completed the question.  With children in London who are living in poverty and unable to afford to use public transport, do you predict ‑‑

 

Darren Johnson AM:  They get free travel.  It is their mums and dads you are worried about.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Absolutely.  They cannot go with their children.  It is ridiculous, is it not?

 

Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Can Members not heckle each other?

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Do you predict we will see more or fewer food banks and food bank users in London this time next year?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  London remains exceptional by comparison with every other city in the UK.  We continue to offer not just free travel for kids but a 24-hour Freedom Pass for older people.  That is not available in any other part in the country and is the subject of some muttering, by the way.  That is something that is very, very valuable to people on low incomes.  We and TfL and London boroughs continue to provide that service.  I should point out that we have cut-price travel for people in search of work, for people who are disabled war veterans and other schemes.

 

We obviously remain very, very attentive to the wealth gap in this city.  The single biggest way to address that wealth gap is to look at the cost of housing, Fiona, which we are going to come to later on in these deliberations.  The best way to address the comparative poverty of many people in London is to help them with the costs of their housing by building more homes, particularly more affordable homes.  That is what we are doing.  Thankfully, the Autumn Statement contained measures, as I have said, to support the creation of tens of thousands more homes in London and we are grateful for that.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Hopefully, some of these homes will actually be genuinely affordable because people are just finding the cost of living in London, including housing and transport, just too much to cope with.  In the year to April, over 37,000 children in London were fed by Trussell Trust food banks.  The total number the charity provided food for was just short of 100,000 people.

 

Two major reports published over the past few weeks have attributed the rise of hunger in the UK in large part to the failings of the benefit system, including the recent all-party inquiry, Feeding Britain.  One advice agency told me that some disabled people in London are waiting up to 12 months to have their Personal Independence Payments processed.  Have you lobbied the Government over systematic failures in processing benefits?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I have not made representations on that because I have not received specific representations on those delayed payments.  I am very happy to do so, Fiona, if you want to forward the correspondence to me.  I am very happy to try to be of assistance where I can.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  I will forward it to you.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  On the general issue of poverty in London and the wealth gap in London, we do work very hard obviously to try to support people as much as we can through the projects I mentioned.  I would also mention the London Living Wage, which has expanded very substantially under this mayoralty.  The crucial way, we think, to help people in poverty is to get them into employment.  There has been a massive rise in employment in London and that is good.

 

I fully appreciate that in some cases people who work are not being paid enough and I would say that is absolutely a correct analysis.  I would like to see the firms that can pay the Living Wage doing the right thing when they can readily afford it out of their cost base and when their shareholders can readily afford it.  It would be a wonderful thing if every single Premier League football club, for instance, followed the example of Chelsea and made sure that all their cleaners and all their contractors get paid the London Living Wage.  We should be talking up the clubs like Chelsea that are doing the right thing.  I am all in favour of bullying and victimising people who do the wrong thing, but let us from time to time talk up the people who are doing the right thing like Nationwide, who are paying the Living Wage.  Some contract cleaners are now paying the Living Wage.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  We can agree that everybody should be paying the Living Wage where they can, but I just want to correct your point.  As well as an increase in the number of people who are being paid the Living Wage, there is an increase in the people who are not.  I just want to put that on the record again.

 

I will just finish by asking you why, when you told BBC Radio London in October 2010 that on your watch you are not going to see thousands of families being evicted from the places they have been living and where they have put down roots, it is exactly what we are seeing with the impact of the Local Housing Allowance changes?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am not certain that we are.  What I said was that I did not want to see convoys of Kosovo-style refugees with saucepan-laden dogcarts.  I think that was what I said, if I remember.  We have not seen that.  Actually, I am not sure that the numbers we are seeing do reflect the characterisation you are making.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  They do because, with respect, if you will let me give you some statistics ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  All political parties accepted that there had to be a reform of the Housing Benefit, which was being paid in very, very substantial quantities.  It was a manifest injustice that some people were basically receiving their entire rent of hundreds of pounds a week from the taxpayer and the people next door were not and were having to work blindingly hard to be able to afford to live in London.  This is, I am afraid, the argument that is at the core of much of our debate about housing.  We need to build hundreds of thousands more affordable homes ‑‑

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Can I just come back and ‑‑

 

Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Could I move you on?  We have strayed considerably from the subjects of transport and the Autumn Statement, which this question is about.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  OK, but I will send you the statistics.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  If you would send me your correspondence that you mentioned, I would be grateful.

 

Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  There will actually be other opportunities in the agenda for you to raise these matters if you wish to do so later on.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  OK.  Thank you.