Poverty in London

MQT on 2017-12-14
Session date: 
December 14, 2017
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


The festive period can be particularly difficult for those living in poverty. What are you doing to  mitigate the impact of Government welfare policies on Londoners?


Answer for Poverty in London

Answer for Poverty in London

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question.  I agree that this time of year can be very difficult for those not only living in poverty but also for the elderly and other vulnerable people.  Theresa May [The Rt Honourable Theresa May, Prime Minister] came into power promising to tackle injustice, improve social mobility and improve the lives of the poor.  However, as the recent resignation of the entire Social Mobility Commission demonstrates, her Government’s focus has been catastrophically diverted from this commitment.  This is not good enough for London or for the people of this country.  I am doing what I can to force the Government to maintain its focus on vital issues such as the scale of poverty across the country, and in London in particular.  We know the disproportionate effect that the welfare reforms introduced in 2010 have had on London, be it the 15,500 households that had their income slashed by the benefit cap, the 2,500 tenants who are already at the risk of eviction having moved on to Universal Credit, or simply the 1 million-plus London households that have seen their incomes fail to keep track with the cost of living.  The recent London Poverty Profile highlighted the alarming rise in the number of London households experiencing deep poverty. 


The powers and resources I have as Mayor in this area are limited but I have lobbied Ministers to acknowledge and act upon the effect these policies are having in London.  Most recently I have written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to highlight the effect that the rollout of Universal Credit is having in London and the inadequacy of the measures announced in the Budget.  My draft Housing Strategy calls on the Government to reconsider the inadequate levels of financial support for private renters on low and middle income through the benefit system which is fuelling homelessness.  I have secured £4.2 million for rough sleeping, including Social Impact Bonds to provide intensive support to the 350 most entrenched rough sleepers this winter.  I will be running a campaign this winter to highlight the support available to rough sleepers and to encourage Londoners to help.  I will be working with boroughs to understand the effect that the rollout of Universal Credit is having on low-income families in London.  I am also taking action to address the root causes of poverty in London by promoting the London Living Wage, my new Good Work Standard, increasing the provision of genuinely affordable homes, freezing TfL fares and continuing my Hopper fare.  My Fuel Poverty Action Plan will also deliver heating and insulation measures, as well as supporting existing local fuel poverty support schemes to help more Londoners who are struggling with their energy bills.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you, and thank you for writing to the Secretary of State.  That is an issue you mentioned a couple of MQTs ago and so I appreciate that.


It is 75 years since publication of the Beveridge Report.  One of the things that runs through the report is the notion - almost Beveridge’s mantra - of the abolition of want.  Yet 75 years later, although poverty might manifest itself in a slightly different way, there are still quite extreme levels of poverty that some people in London are experiencing.  How long do you think it will be before we can see the abolition of want in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There is no one agency or one Government branch that can solve this by itself.  The bad news is that there is no prospect of central Government having the solutions to address the issue of want.  I have an announcement tomorrow that will take some steps towards stymieing the increase in rough sleeping.  We have plateaued it over the last 12 months.  Over the last eight years it was doubling.  By itself that is not enough though.  Charities are working their socks off.  Eighteen charities are working with me on the announcement tomorrow.  Councils are working really hard.  However, without a central Government change of policy I cannot see a radical departure from where we are.  Ultimately it will need a change of government and for that government to have time to turn things around.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.  Foodbanks, as you know, have raised concerns that they will run out of food this Christmas because the demand is likely to be so great because of the impact of some of the benefit changes, particularly the rollout of Universal Credit.  What can be done, and what can you do, to help foodbanks ensure they have enough food in support this Christmas?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  All of us in this Assembly have social media outlets we can use to encourage the public to donate more.  More than 90% of food that goes to foodbanks comes from the public.  All of us, ourselves, should think about donating and use social media outlets to encourage people to donate to their local foodbank.  The Trussell Trust does some remarkably good work around this.  There are other organisations that are now helping.  The Felix Project we know about from the Evening Standard.  FareShare as well are doing good work here.  All of us can do things to help.  The London Food Strategy from next year will be announcing plans to help in this area as well.  The bad news is that there is increased demand on foodbanks for the reasons you have outlined.  They are using up the stocks they have.  All of us can help them backfill their stocks by donating to foodbanks.