Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs and Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali have written to the Secretary of State for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove MP to raise their concerns about the impact the Government’s so called ‘Levelling-Up’ agenda could have on the borough of Tower Hamlets.
Tower Hamlets is a borough of contrasts, and although it has seen growing wealth in some areas, it contains some of the most deprived areas of London. A Poverty Review recently commissioned by the Council found that in a typical classroom of 30 children, 17 are living below the poverty line. At the other end of the age spectrum, 44% of older people in the borough live in low-income households.
This is taking place alongside the triple whammy of the Tory Government’s £20 cut to Universal Credit, the end of furlough and the impact of rising energy prices which will hit Tower Hamlets residents even more.
While the Council continues to do what it can to tackle poverty in the borough and protect much-needed services for residents with limited funding, this is at risk if the Levelling-Up agenda diverts resources away from the Council at this critical juncture.
In the letter they raise concerns that the Levelling-Up agenda push forward by the Government will come at the expense of London, an area with some of the highest levels of poverty in the UK and would take away resources from the East End at a time when Levelling Up should be an across the board look at needs and services.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:
“The residents of Tower Hamlets deserve better. The Tory Government has again and again pushed forward policies which have hit those who are most deprived the hardest, therefore it is not surprising that we are concerned about the roll-out of the Government’s new ‘Levelling-Up’ agenda. Needless to say, we will be pushing the Levelling Up Secretary to clarify their agenda and lobby the Chancellor to provide much-needed additional resources for local councils in the forthcoming Spending Review.”
Rushanara Ali MP, Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow said:
“With child poverty at almost 60%, Tower Hamlets must be at the forefront of any serious ‘Levelling-Up’ agenda. The Chancellor should use this upcoming Spending Review to properly invest in our community so we can meaningfully ‘build back better’ from the devastation Tower Hamlets has faced because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Full Text of the Letter sent to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary:
Dear Michael Gove,
Congratulations on your appointment to Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. We are writing to you as we are deeply concerned about the impact of the Government’s so called ‘Levelling Up’ agenda on our borough of Tower Hamlets.
Tower Hamlets is a borough of contrasts with growing wealth and rising costs but still many people struggling to get by on very little and so dependent on Government programmes. While our local council also does what it can with the resources it has to tackle poverty, this is at risk if Levelling Up diverts resources from us.
Locally we have published a Poverty Review which found that in a typical classroom of 30 children, 17 are living below the poverty line while at the other end of the age spectrum 44% of older people live in low income households. It also found that inequality and poverty go hand in hand; families that have a disabled member, those from Black Minority and Ethnic backgrounds, lone parents and larger families are all at greater at risk of being in poverty.
The combined impact of the £20 cut to Universal Credit, the end of furlough and the impact of rising energy prices will badly hit residents who are already in a precarious position.
As a council Tower Hamlets has had to save over £200m since 2010 due to austerity at a time of increasing demand on services. Figures from the Local Government Association predict that London boroughs will take a £1.2bn financial hit from increased inflation and demand over the next spending review period as well as facing up to a further £1bn of covid pressures. London boroughs also face the largest drop from lost income losing about £26 per resident compared to £15 for shires.
Tower Hamlets has the highest percentage of children in the UK living in poverty after housing costs. This equates to 36,541 children living in poverty. There are more children living in poverty (after housing costs) in Tower Hamlets than all but five local authority areas. Eight of the twenty local authorities with the highest level of child poverty after housing costs were included as priority 1 authorities for the Levelling Up Fund while the remaining 12 are largely London local authorities. All of the twenty local authorities with the highest level of child poverty before housing costs were included as priority 1 authorities for the Levelling Up fund.
Levelling Up can’t be based on an anti-London agenda. When the East End and London thrive the whole country benefits. Levelling Up has to be an across the board look at needs and services. We ask that you review the current indicators of Levelling Up and lobby the Chancellor to provide additional resources for local councils in the forthcoming spending review.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Mayor John Biggs
Rushanara Ali MP