The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs has slammed the Government’s long-awaited Levelling Up announcement as politically motivated and said that ministers are “deliberately turning a blind eye to the deprivation in Tower Hamlets and across London.”
A Poverty Review recently commissioned by Tower Hamlets 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.
The Cost of Living Crisis impacts this even further as the triple whammy of the Tory Government’s £20 cut to Universal Credit, the increase of National Insurance contributions and the impact of rising energy prices will affect Tower Hamlets residents even more.
Despite the deeply serious inequalities facing many across Tower Hamlets and London, the Government’s Levelling Up announcement included only one mention of Tower Hamlets – rehashing an announcement from last year – but had entire pages devoted to a history lesson on the Roman Empire.
The Mayor hit out at the Government for repeatedly pursuing policies which hit the most deprived the hardest, and said that Levelling Up plans don’t come close to undoing the damage caused to communities by over ten years of austerity.
In 2021 the Government announced that Tower Hamlets would receive £9.3m of Levelling Up funding towards the council’s Whitechapel Road Improvement Programme, but this pales in comparison to the over £200m that the council has had to save since 2010 because of austerity and increasing demand.
By contrast, Conservative-run Worcestershire Council has received a total of £70.4 million in Towns Fund allocations, Levelling-Up Fund and the Community Renewal Fund.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:
“The Government has again and again pursued policies which have hit the most deprived the hardest, and their ‘Levelling-Up’ plans are no different.
“So much of the Levelling Up debate is based on an anti-London agenda, forgetting that London is home to some of the most deprived parts of the country. Ministers are clearly turning a blind eye to the deprivation in Tower Hamlets and across London. Tower Hamlets Council has an incredible tackling poverty programme, but we’ve already had to save over £200m since 2010 and all of the services we provide are at risk if Levelling Up diverts yet more resources from us.
“It beggars belief that the Government gives us back a tiny fraction of what we’ve lost since 2010 and then expects us to be grateful. It cannot be right that vital funding is systematically taken from areas like Tower Hamlets – which has the highest percentage of children in the UK living in poverty – and funnelled into other parts of the country to meet a political agenda.
“When the East End and London thrive, the whole country benefits. Levelling Up must be about having a genuine look at the funding and services we need to support the most deprived. Restoring funding to public services in the most deprived parts of the country would be a good place to start.”