Social mobility (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
May 16, 2019
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Joanne McCarthy AM:  Mr Mayor, poverty is a major barrier to social mobility and I am sure you were as shocked as I was this week when the London Child Poverty Alliance announced the new figures for poverty not only across the country but in London.  It is increasing.


If I can give you an example in my own boroughs of Enfield and Haringey, in Tottenham and Edmonton, nearly 49% of our children are living in poverty.  This is after housing costs.  Across my two boroughs, that means 66,000 children are living in poverty.  You have already made some progress on this with some of the early years work that I am doing on your behalf, also freezing TfL transport costs and more affordable housing, but the main levers come from the Government.


What would you like to see the Government do to really crack down and tackle this issue of child poverty?

Supplementary To: 


Social mobility (Supplementary) [1]

Social mobility (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Firstly, we have to say it loud and clear: austerity is a political choice.  Cuts are a political choice.  The Government has made a political choice to make cuts over the last eight or nine years and we should not be embarrassed to say that.  Those of us who care about Londoners realise that there are consequences of cuts.


One of the consequences of cuts is increased poverty.  One of the consequences of cuts is that the ladders that were in place to help people escape poverty are being taken away.  That is why it is really important to realise that we have to persuade this Government, as long as it is still in place, to reverse its previous policies and to reverse austerity.


I actually watched ‑ unlike the Conservatives ‑ a speech made by [The Rt Hon] Theresa May [MP, Prime Minister] at her party conference.  Theresa May said austerity has ended.  I see no evidence of that.  I see no evidence in relation to the Spring Statement or announcements from the Government that austerity has ended.  We need a reversal of some of the welfare benefit changes.  We need to extend the amount of free childcare available to young mums in particular and carers and parents.  We need to make sure there is financial support for young people taking on apprenticeships, whether full‑time or part‑time.  We have to make sure we promote the Living Wage so that people do the right thing and work and get a decent Living Wage.  We have to make sure that there is not exploitation around zero‑hours working.  We have to support young people who have more entrepreneurial zeal to set up a business for them to flourish and thrive.


I will tell you, by the way, what is going to exacerbate the concerns of those of us who are suffering poverty and make things worse is a no‑deal Brexit because all the evidence is it will make our city poorer, which will make it less likely that the Government is going to be able to address poverty because there will be less tax revenue from businesses and jobs.


Joanne McCarthy AM:  Thank you.  Mr Mayor, I published a report titled Children: Victims of Austerity.  In that, I examine some of the factors causing child poverty.  You are right.  It is about welfare benefits.  It is about the lack of ambition from this Government abolishing child poverty targets, for example.  I have asked, but actually what the Government should do is have a Poverty and Inequality Commission to really have a deep dive and look at how policies should be tackling this and where they should be directing money.  Would you agree with that?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Absolutely.  One of the things if for no other reason why we need it is so that Ministers can be educated about the causes of some of their policies because it is quite clear that some Ministers do not realise what causes poverty.


Joanne McCarthy AM:  Mr Mayor, I travel across London and I visit schools.  Normally I visit a school every few weeks.  Increasingly, teachers are telling me that the issue of poverty is creeping into the classroom.  Visiting Seven Sisters Primary School in my borough last year [2018], I was shocked to be led into a classroom to see that it had been turned into a food, clothing and baby bank because the level of need in Tottenham was so great that the school just felt it had to act.  The National Education Union has recently come out with a report giving examples of that throughout London and beyond.


Are you aware of that report and is there any further work you can do with schools?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am aware of that report and we are doing lots of work with schools.  It is worth reminding ourselves that the welfare state is supposed to be a safety net for those who are facing difficult times.  That safety net now has so many holes in it because of the policies of the last eight or nine years.  We have teachers bringing into schools things they have from home to help the children, plugging gaps in state provision.


We are doing what we can from City Hall, helping schools.  You do some of this work in relation to many of the visits you make and conversations you have.  We are doing lots of work in relation to poverty, whether it is period poverty, whether it is poverty in relation to other issues in schools.  We are doing what we can to persuade the Government to have universal free meals for children.  That is really important.  We will continue to assist boroughs, councils and schools doing this sort of work and others, but also lobby the Government at the same time.


Joanne McCarthy AM:  Thank you.