Cost of Living in London

Meeting: 
MQT on 2015-09-16
Session date: 
September 16, 2015
Reference: 
2015/2754
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

How much does it cost to raise a family with three-children in London?

Answer

Answer for Cost of Living in London

Answer for Cost of Living in London

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Fiona.  We have estimates for the cost of living for a range of family types with two children; you read across for three children.  For the 2014 calculation these range from £396 to £724 per week.  Clearly we have done a lot to try to mitigate those costs and to keep them down; reducing council tax, trying to help with energy costs by retrofitting homes, freezing rail fares in real terms for the last couple of years.  We have got all the concessions in London that people do not get elsewhere on public transport; Freedom pass for anybody over 60, free travel for children under 18 in full time education, free travel for those in search of work, for apprentices and so on.  We are trying to keep those costs as low as we can, although I appreciate that living in this city is very expensive for many people.

Fiona Twycross AM:  I recently heard about the case of a woman called Georgina.  She is a single parent.  She left a violent and abusive husband and is sole carer of three children aged between four and ten.  Not surprisingly she currently lives on benefits and relies on the support of her friends and family.  Three years ago her Housing Benefit was cut as a result of the newly introduced cap on Local Housing Allowance.  In order to remain close to her support network - which I am sure you can understand she wanted to do - and manage to juggle her outgoings on the cap she moved into a two-bedroom flat for herself and her three children at a rent of £330 a week.  In August 2013 she was obviously then also subject to the total benefits cap, meaning that after paying her rent, gas and electricity she was left with just £128 a week to raise her three children on and to pay for everything else.  When the Government lowers the household benefit cap again the weekly income for Georgina and people like her will be just £71 a week. 

Do you think anyone - including you, obviously - could raise three children on just £71 a week?  Do you support the lowering of the total benefit cap in London?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  These are very tough choices that the country has to make.  The benefit cap has been at £26,000.  I believe it is coming down to £23,000.  Everybody appreciates that Georgina - the constituent you described - needs to live near her networks but £23,000 is, by many people’s standard, a lot of money to be receiving.  You have got to do something about the Housing Benefit.  That was a point that was shared by the Labour Party as we went into the last election and indeed before. 

I do appreciate how difficult this issue is.  What I would stress is that the Living Wage is an important factor in this.  It is right that a higher national living wage has been announced.

Fiona Twycross AM:  Can we go back to what people will actually be spending the money on?  With the new cap I understand that it is estimated that 80% of the money in London is likely to go direct to landlords.  One of the issues here is obviously the massive cost of rents in the private sector. 

Would you agree that it is actually not necessarily just the fault of the Government in this case, it is more the fact that you have failed to tackle the housing crisis in London during your time as Mayor?  Do you know how many people in London are going to be further affected by the benefit cap, almost 50% of whom currently are living in London?  Have you got estimates on how many more people are going to be affected by this?  What more can be done to make sure that people are not having to get to that level? 

It is about costs as well as expenditure.  It is very easy to say that £23,000 sounds like a lot of money.  When you start breaking it down into what people are having to spend - even with all the things that you say you are doing - it is just simply not possible for people to get by in London. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I understand that.  You talk about the housing crisis.  We have talked about this extensively already this morning.  We have built more homes than ever before.  As I said just now to Tom, the number of affordable homes being completed this year is a record since 1981. 

Tom Copley AM:  You changed the definition.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  The overall number of homes being built this year is the biggest since that date as well.  What we are seeing is a huge expansion in supply.  That is the only real long-term solution.

Fiona Twycross AM:  We could argue about this for another five minutes but I have run out of time now.  I have run out of time.  We will move on.  We will come back to that another time.  Thank you.