MQT on 2015-03-25
Session date: 
March 25, 2015
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Has London become a low wage economy?


Answer for Pay

Answer for Pay

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  London is not a low-wage economy in the sense that overall the London economy tends to attract higher pay than the rest of the country.  A Low Pay Commission report in 2015 showed that London has the lowest proportion of minimum-wage jobs, 3.1% compared to 5.1% for England as a whole and 9.9% in Northern Ireland.  As you know and as we have discussed many times before, the minimum wage is not enough for London.  We should be going for the Living Wage and you know what I am going to say about expanding that and the numbers that we have achieved, which is good but could do better. 


Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes, and I obviously agree that you could do a lot better on tackling low pay and increasing the take-up of the London Living Wage, with almost 1 million people in London paid below that.  The truth is also that you could have done much better to make the cost of living easier for those on low pay as well, and finally today we have the truth.  A senior member of your team, with Stephen Greenhalgh [Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime] just saying on Conservative Home this morning that he wants London to have the best public transport in the world but that, however, at the moment we actually also have the most expensive.  He has actually admitted something that you have been resisting admitting, hat London has higher fares than New York, Paris or Tokyo.  Are you concerned, as he appears to be, that fares have gone up over 40% since you came to power, having a massive impact on those on low pay?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Stephen is entitled to make his points, as you would expect.  The reality is that if you look at what we have done with fares over the last few years, we have held them down at the retail price index (RPI) last year and at RPI this year.  We continue to have a Freedom Pass enjoyed by all Londoners over 60, which they have nowhere else in the country, nowhere else.  In the morning peak, too, we allow people to travel free on TfL services.  We have done that for everybody over 60.  We have concessions for apprentices.  We have free travel for disabled war veterans and armed services in uniform.  Unlike the previous Labour administration, we have helped everybody who lives in London by reducing council tax, which went up under the Labour mayoralty by 153%.  As I say, we have had an increase in the number of organisations paying the Living Wage from fewer than about 23 when I took over to 516 today.  That has put about £60 million into the pockets of poorer, hardworking people in London. 


Yes, there is more to do and I would like to see more firms come forward and pay the Living Wage.  If your question is really about the fares box and how we handle that, you have to answer what we would do, which investments we would cut, which track upgrades we would scrap, which bus services you would cut, and that would be a ‑‑


Fiona Twycross AM:  You can list quite a lot, but it is quite hypocritical of Stephen Greenhalgh to have served in your top team while thinking that your policies are wrong.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  He is perfectly entitled to discuss what he would do. 


Fiona Twycross AM:  On apprenticeships and concessions to apprentices, do you think it is right that apprentices only get the concession in the first year of the apprenticeship while the National Union of Students (NUS) has raised concerns about the need for a better system of support overall in place for apprentices, who have to deal with the high cost of living in London overall and currently are only left with £15.52 a week after paying for travel, lunch and course costs?  Would you look at extending that?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Fiona, I will look at that.  I am not going to make any promise now.  A travel concession is something that really has to be wrung out of TfL.  We make so many concessions now.  If you go on a London bus now, under half the complement of the bus will be paying the fare.  The majority of the passengers will be benefiting from a discount or free travel of some kind. 


Fiona Twycross AM:  It would be good to look at how you can help apprentices more.  Thank you. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  If you do that and if you have all the elderly who are protected, young people who are protected, veterans and disabled people, then you are putting more and more of the burden on, effectively, a minority of the travelling public.  There is a balance to be struck.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes.  Thank you.