Thursday, 2 June 2011

London's calling, is anyone listening?

Rich old London can take care of itself.  Really?
I am supposed to be off this week, relaxing with my family but it's just not happening. Aside from SEL's ongoing needs, my phone keeps me in touch with members, many of whom are going to the wall. Like the rest of Alarm Clock Britain, I am acutely aware of the need to take a break, but as we approach the end of the first quarter in this financial year, the reality is grim for so many social enterprises and I am struggling to 'put it in a box' as my Mother advises. Even some of our largest members, which have only ever experienced growth, are about to declare deficits and those that have been working with government are, for the most part, in a terrible mess.

Added to that I am beside myself with the growing anti-London rhetoric that seems to be all around me. Like so-called benefit cheats, London seems to be an easy target: bloated, rich and cushioned by City fat cats. Really? London receives and finds homes for over 50% of the UK's immigrants with boroughs such as Lambeth, turning over a similar percentage each and every year in their population as the transitory nature of immigration makes its mark. Much of London, including Tower Hamlets, Tottenham and Dagenham, has as high deprivation as anywhere in Europe. Unemployment is growing faster in London, particularly in the young, than anywhere in the UK. Londoners are not the City boys in Canary Wharf, the corporate Americans in Notting Hill or even the cabbies who have for the most part moved to Kent and Essex, they are the cleaners from Catford, the unemployed factory workers in Silvertown, the often unpaid techies in Shoreditch or the care workers in Croydon, one of whom sent me an email last night that told me she earns £14k even with a postgrad in Clinical Psychology.

The London Government Office is the only one for a region that has actually closed, and our RDA has shrunk faster and further than any other region. This, coupled with the effects of Government initiatives like the Regional Growth Fund, which made it clear that funding increases only as you get further from London, and we are in trouble. But apparently London's corporate crew will reach out and salve the growing social crisis. Well, on behalf of the social enterprise community I stand and wait. And I am waiting. And it's making me so cross that relaxation, like peace of mind, seems out of reach. Quiet isn't it? That's the sound of London taking care of its own.


  1. Yes, average Londoners seem to be paying a very high price for the privilege of living and working in close proximity to a small bunch of people who are really well off. The housing's a bit pricey here, too.

    To be fair to corporate types, I think it's a bit of a big ask to expect them to fill the spending gaps that have been created. Any word from Boris on this situation?

  2. Corporate funds can not be expected to take the place of strategic Government investment and I agree it would be a big ask that thought it could. I know the Mayor has been disappointed even 'shocked' at the way London, the engine room of the economy as he describes it, has been short changed, the question is, what happens now? I don't have the answer I'm afraid.