Economic recovery and inequality

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 11th June 2021.

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Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

How will you work to redress inequality in London as you support London’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Can I say how lovely it is to see you sitting around this Assembly as an Assembly Member. I note that Navin Shah [former Assembly Member] is in the house. I am not sure that is a good or bad thing for you, Krupesh, but, yes, good to see Navin Shah in City Hall as well.

The pandemic has affected all Londoners. But far from being a great leveller, it has disproportionately exposed and exacerbated existing structural inequalities. The London Recovery Board has made a clear commitment that our recovery should narrow social, economic and health inequalities and that this commitment should be woven throughout the whole programme. Each of the nine missions will contribute to this goal.

I have targeted the £330 million AEB towards Londoners hardest hit by the pandemic, supporting them to get back into good work. We are working with London’s Anchor Institutions to take a leading role in helping London’s employers build back better and address inequalities in the labour market. But with the cliff edge of the end of the Government’s support coming, we will have to work together to avoid a further crisis for jobs and skills across London, which would again threaten to hit the worst-off hardest.

A fair economic recovery depends on collaboration with London boroughs as partners in London’s recovery. Together, we are addressing our shared challenges and inequalities at every level of local government and with other partners across the city. We also want to put politics aside and work with national Government to really drive forward London’s recovery, which we know is crucial for the recovery of our whole nation.

Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

Thank you. Congratulations on your re-election as well and also paying tribute to my predecessor, Navin Shah, in the public gallery.

We have seen food bank usage increase during this pandemic and in the height of it you stepped in to support food banks across London when they were running short on supplies. I thank you for taking the time a few weeks ago to visit London Community Kitchen in Harrow to see first-hand the work that they are doing to support people in Brent and Harrow. How will you work towards ensuring that no Londoner goes hungry in your new Mayoral term?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Can I just say, it was inspiring and heart-breaking to visit the London Community Kitchen in Harrow with you and with Navin as well and with Gareth Thomas [Senior Information Officer, Homeless Link] and the leader of Harrow Council, [Councillor] Graham [Henson]. You had brilliant Londoners doing brilliant work helping those who need support. You think, how is it possible in the fifth or sixth richest city in the world that we rely upon food banks? What was heart-breaking was the numbers of people in work they were helping. People who were doing a hard day’s work, often two jobs, were relying upon food banks. You mentioned London Community Kitchen, but there are many others across London, Felix is another one doing great work. That cannot be right. Of course we will carry on helping address the issue of food insecurity, working with food aid partners. You will be aware of the financial support we have given to the London Community Response Fund.

We are going to deal with what is at the core of this, that we need to have better-paid good jobs in our city. The idea behind the investment around adult education is to give Londoners the skills for the future-proof jobs created in our city. It is really important we give them well-paid, high-skilled jobs going forward.

Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

Also within the issue of inequalities is the issue of child poverty. You may have seen this week, piloted by the End Child Poverty Coalition last week, a shocking 38% of children live in poverty in the capital. While the levels of power are in Government’s hands, such as putting an end to some of the punitive welfare reforms that they have put in place, what action can you take in your second term to tackle this issue, which the pandemic will have worsened?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes, it is a big issue. The child poverty situation is of serious concern in our city. The key thing we have to do is try to reduce the cost of living in London. We can reduce the cost of living in a number of ways. Firstly, I am determined to keep free travel for under-18s. You will be aware of the attempt to remove this over the last few months. If you are the parent of two, three or four children going to two, three or four schools, you know the cost of travel.

The second thing is to reduce the cost of living. It is really important that we try to avoid a situation where those who rent privately have big increases in their rents when we come out of lockdown, we need more genuinely affordable homes in our city.

The third big issue we have to deal with is to make sure that people get a decent pay for doing a hard day’s work. It is really important we make sure we address that.

You will be aware the massive priority made in new employers paying the London living wage. I want London to be a living wage city. That is the aspiration. We are going to work our socks off over the next three years to make London a living wage city.