WHAT HAPPENS TO EMPIRES
TAKE THE CASE OF Britain:
More than half all London children living in poverty
By Tania Kent
28 December 2002
A report published last month has exposed the deepening gulf between
Rich and poor in Britain’s capital. Commissioned by the Mayor of London,
Ken Livingstone, the report revealed that a staggering 600,000 children
In inner London live below the government’s official poverty line.
Some 53 percent of children in London’s core boroughs are suffering
Deprivation, making child poverty in inner London worse than in any
Other region of Britain. It compares with 37 percent in northeast
England, the next highest area, and 22 percent in the eastern and
The figures—based on analysis by the Greater London Authority of data
Collected by the government’s Department of Work and Pensions—are the
First to show how poverty is divided between inner London and the
capital’s relatively prosperous outer zone. Even so, in outer London 33
percent of children live in poverty.
Other sections of society are also particularly vulnerable to poverty.
The report shows that 36 percent of the 400,000 pensioners in inner
London live below the poverty line as well as 30 percent of the areas
1.8 million working age adults. These are the highest proportions in
Ethnic minority groups are also disproportionately affected, with 75
percent of Pakistani and Bangladeshi children in inner London and 55
percent of black children living in poverty after housing costs are take
Poverty is also feeding through into low educational standards and
increased crime, whilst poor housing is contributing to a spread of
tuberculosis, with notifications in London running three to eight times
above those in other areas.
Data on household incomes at regional levels has only been published
Income poverty is measured in two ways. The first is based on disposable
household income after tax and National Insurance contributions,
yielding a child poverty rate for the UK of 21 percent in 2000-2001. The
second uses the same data, but also deducts housing costs from
disposable income. On this basis the child poverty rate is 31 percent
The single most important factor for the unprecedented rate of child
poverty in inner London appears to be the proportion of children living
in households where nobody works. While employment is not a guarantee
that households will not be in poverty—40 percent of poor children live
in households where at least one person is working—the difference
between the child poverty rates in London and the national average
reflects the high percentage of children in the capital in workless
Inner London includes prosperous areas in parts of Kensington, Chelsea,
Westminster and the City as well as the most deprived parts such as
Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Southwark and Lambeth, where
“unemployment is the rule, not the exception,” the report states.
“Virtually all the increase in full-time employment since 1992 has been
in occupational groups where a university degree or equivalent is the
prerequisite,” according to the study. Migration into London has been
running at 150,000 people a year. “One implication is that London
residents without the qualifications to command this type of employment
may be left behind.”
The analysis supports a report published last year by the London
Children’s Rights Commissioner. That report found that in one London
borough, Tower Hamlets, 74 percent of under-16s lived in households
dependent on benefits.
While in the 1970s and ’80s unemployment in London was well below the
national average, over the past 10 years the capital has had one of the
worst unemployment rates in the country. Inner London has the highest
unemployment rate any sub-region in Britain.
Martin Barnes of the Child Poverty Action group told the BBC that the
government and local authorities must act on the findings, saying the
gap between rich and poor in the capital was a chasm. “Today’s report
reveals a London that many do not see or wish to ignore. Poor families
and communities often live but a short walk from prosperous shops and
businesses,” he said.
“Central government is best placed to tackle income poverty,” Barnes
continued, “but nonetheless the Greater London Authority has been slow
to give the problem of child poverty the attention and urgency it
“The fact that there are more references to pigeons than child poverty
on the GLA’s web site is telling and damning.”
Livingstone is using the conditions of social deprivation in the capital
to press forward with his regionalist policies. He has argued that inner
London should be considered a region on its own, as it has a population
of three million, equivalent to Wales or northeast England. He wants the
capital to be able to keep a larger share of the revenues it generates,
railing against a system of regional redistribution that enables
government to shift resources from the south to decimated industrial
areas of the north, for example.
In commissioning the report Livingstone wanted to prove that the capital
had its own extreme problems. He has succeeded in doing so, but has also
exposed his own divisive policies. Other telling statistics show that
inner London also has the highest income per head in Europe. It also has
the greatest number of millionaires, the most expensive properties, the
most designer boutiques, and the most expensive restaurants in the
In place of progressive demands for policies aimed at redistributing the
staggering wealth that exists within the capital, however, including
significant tax increases for big business and the rich, Livingstone
pits workers in the south against those in the north in order to keep
more wealth in the capital and therefore in his own coffers.
Any Brits out there wanna tell us how that is done? Or maybe USA citizens Have a clue?
CHARLES DICKENS where are you when we need you?