The BBC reports new research that finds the life expectancy gap between rich and poor in the UK is now widening, especially for men, for the first time since the 1870s. Could this be the long-term impact of hopelessly misguided neoliberal economic policies playing out in relatively shorter lives for the poor and longer lives for the rich? It would be a shocking turn in British history, the end of a 130 year positive social trend, and all the more so as we have known the causes of health inequalities for at least half a century: economic and social inequalities. The paper suggests that differences in 'lifestyle choices' between groups could be partly to blame, but Michael Marmot's work on health inequalities shows we must focus on the 'causes of the causes'.
The effects of social and economic inequities take time to accumulate in us and emerge slowly as generations mature. This means that some of the harms of inequality being visited on current generations can never wholly be undone, and that the social gains that will accrue from a more equal society will inevitably take time to become visible.
As a start let's hope that this week we manage to elect a new Mayor who understands that creating a fairer society is vital to our future health and prosperity, and that changing the direction of economic and social policy will take sustained long-term commitment.
Sadiq Khan for Labour has committed to creating an economic equity team right in the Mayor's office, if he is elected. The Green Party's manifesto for it's candidate Sian Berry, puts economic equality at the centre of their economic plans for London. Harder to see recognition of the issue's importance for London in Caroline Pidgeon's Lib Dem manifesto for London, although she spoke very well on the subject at the launch of the London Fairness Commission. Zac Goldsmith's manifesto doesn't mention economic inequality, and he didn't show up at the Fairness Commission's launch event.
Millionaires call for increased taxes
In case you missed it, fascinating reports that millionaires in New York City are asking for taxes on them to be raised. They say they can afford to pay more, and that public investment in schools, infrastructure, and anti-poverty measures are vital to shared economic success. The US tax system is complex and very different to the UK but nevertheless fascinating to see the richest in a society actually asking to pay more. Their letter does not make reference to the intrinsic benefits of narrower gaps between rich and poor, but I guess us non super-rich can't expect everything.
What chance London wealthiest asking to pay more tax? The London Fairness Commission reported that the 80 billionaires resident in London have shared wealth of over £250,000,000,000. A one percent tax on these 80 individuals would raise more than the Mayor of London's total annual budget for housing.
A small but perfectly formed My Fair London contingent joined the huge demonstration in central London on Saturday. Our banner stood up well, resisting both the wind and the rain, and the sun even came out as we arrived in Trafalgar Square. Impossible to estimate numbers when you are in a march but it felt like a very large crowd. Our banner's slogan "extreme inequality hurts us all" seemed to get a lot of attention. Thanks to everyone who came along.
We gave out hundreds of copies of our manifesto for the next Mayor of London - 5 Steps for a Fairer London, and talked to lots and lots of people about inequality. Particularly pleased to give a copy to Jules Pipe, the Labour Mayor of Hackney, and Chair of London Councils.
We have published our manifesto for the Mayor of London: '5 Steps for a fairer city'. My Fair London's manifesto calls on the next Mayor to take concerted action on housing, on the economy and to help young people. It asks the next Mayor to make narrowing the gap between rich and poor the organising principle for their administration. Whoever becomes Mayor on 5th May we want them to take action on the gross economic inequality that harms us and our city. Polling day is less than a month away. We need to act now.
Help us make sure that all the leading candidates understand how worried Londoners are about fairness in the city. Read our '5 Steps for a fairer city', sign the petition, and email the candidates themselves asking them to sign up, and share the My Fair London manifesto with your friends, neighbours, classmates, workmates.Read more
New study on the links between housing and inequality published today, with a launch event at Centre for London this morning. Seems like a useful contribution.
"Over the past 20 years the price of housing in London has quadrupled, and the number of people renting privately has grown dramatically. London’s housing crisis is by now infamous: it is the top issue for London voters and for London businesses, who worry about recruitment.
Housing and Inequality in London looks at how sky-high housing costs are also increasing income inequality in the capital. The report reveals three ways in which rapidly rising housing costs are affecting the fortunes of Londoners and disparities in income and wealth.
- Traditional assumptions about poverty and housing tenure are being eroded.
- Rising house prices have inflated wealth disparities.
- Rising housing costs are suburbanising poverty.
The report authors argue that the links between housing and inequality can no longer be ignored."
The study shows that London's housing and property markets are exacerbating inequality, which is no surprise. It also helpfully shows that being in social housing is a protective against poverty. Depressing in a way that we need a study to show us that social housing does what it was created to do back in the late 19th century - offer people cheaper housing that they could otherwise afford, leaving them with more money for other things. The report offers useful data on the growth of the private rented sector, and the parallel rapid rise in both private rents and house prices. London really does seem to be going back to the future. The slums of Victorian London were of course in the private rented sector - to use todays housing jargon.
The study shows how London's housing and property market increases inequality, but it doesn't really explore how inequality (the accumulated cash of the rich invested in property and the behaviour of the financial services sector pouring money into the deregulated mortgage market over the last forty years) has fuelled the city's housing affordability crisis. As the rich get richer investing in seemingly ever rising property markets becomes more and more attractive, and unfortunately for London and its people, we are at the centre of footloose globalised capital. Without tackling wealth accumulations at the top, and property is part of that wealth, we won't solve London's affordability housing crisis.
A really interesting book launch on 13th April, hosted by the Resolution Foundation. 'Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe' is by David Stasavage and Kenneth Scheve.
When and why do countries choose to tax the rich? How do the lessons of history compare to what is happening in the UK today? Do the richest in society need to pay more, or are they already sharing an unfair burden of the UK’s declining tax base? Great questions. At My Fair London meetings we often talk about how important it is to help people understand the changing nature of inequality over time.
The launch event starts at 5.30 and will include a presentation by the authors followed by discussion with Deborah Hargreaves from the High Pay Centre and Paul Johnson from the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The event is free (with refreshments) and any My Fair London members interested in attending can book tickets through the Resolution Foundation web site.
UK film premier - 'The Divide: what happens when the rich get richer'
The Divide tells the story of 7 individuals striving for a better life in modern day US and UK - where the top 0.1% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%. By plotting these tales together, we uncover how every aspect of our lives is controlled by one factor: the size of the gap between rich and poor.
The premier is at the West End Picture House on Monday 11th April at 6.30 p.m. Tickets are still available here. After the screening Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of The Spirit Level, will be in discussion with the films director, Katherine Round.
The film's finance was partly raised through crowd sourcing and many members of My Fair London contributed. Do come along and see how powerfully the film puts across the evidence that inequality is harming our society. If you can't make it to the premier don't worry, My Fair London will be arranging a special screening in May (date to be confirmed), and 'The Divide' web site includes listings of dozens of other screenings right across the country, as well as information on how to arrange your own screening.
'The Divide' will help us further promote the evidence that economic inequality is fundamentally harmful to our society, and that together we need to do something about it.
The London Fairness Commission has launched its final report. At a well attended launch event at the National Theatre today three of the four Mayoral candidates took questions about the report and responded to its key findings. Sadiq Kahn, Sian Berry and Caroline Pidgeon (Labour, Green and Lib Dem respectively) all welcomed the report and committed to many of its recommendations. Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith didn't show up and didn't send anyone to speak on his behalf. Commission Chair, Lord Victor Adebowale warned that unless the next Mayor makes tackling inequality, and reducing the unjust unfairnesses we see around us, the whole city will suffer.
The report contains a wide range of practical recommendations that would really help make our city a bit fairer. It focusses particularly on housing - calling for the next Mayor to be given the power to set 'affordable rents' in the private sector, the suspension of right to buy in London, and new ideas on how to tax property owners or developers who keep properties empty. The Fairness Commission also recommends there should be a London Minimum Wage, set to recognise the higher costs of living for workers in London, and that companies in London should be asked to publish their wage ratios - that is how much the boss gets paid compared to the average worker. The Fairness Commission raises particular concerns about the lives of young Londoners, and how economic inequalities are making it almost impossible for ordinary young Londoners to live and work in their own city. One suggestion is that the freedom pass should not be given to wealthy older Londoners, and the money saved should go on creating more opportunities for young Londoners.Read more
A set of reports showing how the top 1% are out of control, unaccountable, and not worth the money they are paid. Read the coverage in The Observer here.
Interesting that the London School of Economics, often a bastion of conventional economic theory, is beginning to make inequality, and the outrageous level of rewards taken by business leaders, a significant focus of its research. Of course The Spirit Level and much other work show that these levels of inequality are harmful to society. With so many businesses headquartered in London, we need to show the capital's business leaders that their collective greed is irritating the hell out of the rest of us!
At the same time new analysis from the JRF Foundation shows that the risk of experiencing childhood abuse and neglect is related to poverty. So the Government has cut top rates of tax for the rich and cut benefits for the poor. We will be launching My Fair London's manifesto for a fairer city shortly - calling on the next Mayor of London to find a different way.
The London Fairness Commission has announced that it will launch it's final report on 15th March. My Fair London was the driving force behind the establishment of the London Fairness Commission, helping to raise funds for its work, and working with Toynbee Hall and other partners to set its terms of reference. The Fairness Commission has held a series of public events and debates, and reviewed evidence on housing, employment, transport, education and young people, and many other important questions, to come up with a series of practical ways to make our city fairer. My Fair London hopes that the Commission's final report will highlight the gross economic inequality that blights our city, and outline a range of practical measures that the next Mayor of London can take to begin to make our city fairer once again.
The launch event, chaired by the Editor of the Evening Standard, is on 15th March from 12.30 to 2.30 p.m. at the National Theatre. Click here for more details and to book your place at the launch.
Although we haven't seen the Commission's final recommendations, My Fair London activists and supporters are strongly encouraged to attend the launch, to show our support for the commission and to see what they have come up with!