Posts Tagged 'London'

After the Olympics frenzy, will London’s East End return to its former poverty?

Photograph of Anne PowerBy Policy Press author Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy and Head of LSE Housing and Communities at the London School of Economics

East London boroughs are different from the rest of London – their populations have lower incomes, higher unemployment, lower skills, bigger concentrations of residents from ethnic minority backgrounds. Their population is younger with more lone-parent families, higher population turnover, more social housing. But the East End also has many valuable assets – more spare land and more disused buildings, more space for redevelopment, faster improving skill and lower house prices than London as a whole. All this is the legacy of centuries of intense development as London’s backyard.  The Olympic Games came to East London to overcome this twin legacy of high deprivation and spare capacity, which divides the area into extremes of wealth and poverty.

The LSE Housing and Communities team made repeat visits over ten years to one hundred low-income East End families in two of the Olympic boroughs – Hackney and Newham, both before and after the bid was announced. Today the LSE team is again interviewing residents about the direct impact of the Olympics on family life and local neighbourhoods. Newham is the main host of the Games and the borough will be directly affected. Before the Games, Newham had three times the national level of lone parents, double the unemployment rate, three times the rate of violent crime, double the proportion claiming benefits, double the proportion living in social renting. Despite the Games developments, Newham still ranks among the very poorest local authorities in the country.

Families struggling on low incomes in deprived neighbourhoods want a better future for their children. They welcome investment in their area, as long as it doesn’t directly threaten them, such as demolition of their homes. The Olympics, building on largely derelict sites, will add a major park and better transport connections, but locals are still unsure how much they will directly benefit. Olympic jobs have not proved easy to access. The Olympic site itself was firmly closed up to the Games; and the much vaunted legacy of new homes, school and health centre is yet to kick in. Only the brand new Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, the dense blocks of the athletes’ village in the distance, the festive street improvements, the outline of the stadium and the sight of the huge Olympic Park suggest the massive legacy there will be.

Yet real community change has happened since our family interviews began in 1998. Firstly, the arrival of high speed international trains at Stratford, long in coming, paved the way for London winning the Games, making King’s Cross less than 10 minutes from the Park. London buses, local trains and underground have improved around this long run plan. Secondly, the local Stratford shopping centre rose to the challenge of upmarket Westfield, by upgrading its image while still providing cheap, affordable goods for low-income local populations. Thirdly, local schools have climbed steadily from their very poor performance in the 1990s to catch up with national scores in the last few years.

So post-Olympic East London may become an easier place to bring up children, it may become a more harmonious, more hopeful, more resilient place. Or it may be left even poorer as spending cuts bite harder and resources tighten. Local leadership will need to fight for their existing communities, not for richer newcomers. More jobs, more education, more opportunity, more local events and more support for families and young people are the lifelines of survival in tough times. Local communities will be the losers if developers take their space and displace them. There’s a lot to win or lose after the Games.

Note: LSE Housing and Communities is carrying out research into the long term impact of the London Olympics on deprivation in the London Borough of Newham.

Anne Power is the co-author of East Enders: Family and community in East London, which is our special offer during August for only £15.00 (RRP £23.99). Purchase your copy.

Other books by Anne Power with The Policy Press:
City survivors: Bringing up children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods
Jigsaw cities: Big places, small spaces
Phoenix cities: The fall and rise of great industrial cities
Family futures: Childhood and poverty in urban neighbourhoods

Win a copy of Injustice by Daniel Dorling!

Congratulations to Titus Alexander, an active supporter of the Equality Trust and One Society campaign, who has won a copy of Injustice by Daniel Dorling.

Would you like to win a copy of Daniel Dorling’s Injustice: Why social inequality persists? Simply post a relevant comment to either the ‘The rise and rise of social inequality’ or the ‘Is social inequality addictive’ entry and we will enter you into a prize draw to win copy of the book, we only have one to give away so join the debate now! Closing date 30th April 2010. If you have any questions please email tpp-marketing@bristol.ac.uk.

The rise and rise of social inequality

What would be your list of the most damaging current social evils in Britain today and how would you explain their survival? A very large number of writers have tried to answer this question over the decades since an answer was first offered by William Beveridge in 1942. In recent years the general public have also been asked more frequently what they think too. A great many evils are listed from all these machinations and consultations.

I thought these lists might be a good place to start when writing the book Injustice, which tries to explain why inequalities persists and are allowed to rise, even having reached, in some cases, their highest recorded levels for almost eighty years (income, health, wealth and voting inequalities). What I found was that almost all the entries in almost all the lists could be put into five broad boxes. These five separated out the five original social evils as identified in the Beveridge report. However, by comparing how the lists changed over time it was possible to see how the natures of each social evil had also changed. What began to emerge, for me at least, was a picture of how each old social evil had transformed into something often very different but equally as damaging when it came to maintaining inequality and hence injustice.

All of the new social evils are arguments for maintaining and increasing inequality or modern arguments for injustice. They are, I claim, what keep us addicted to inequality in the most unequal of countries. Some people used to say that smoking was good for the constitution. It helped you develop a “productive cough”, cleared out the lungs. There are still people today who say that inequality is good, it rewards merit, encourages competition and fosters growth and consumption – these are in effect the “productive coughs” of 21st century society. And, just as there were lobbyists paid to argue for tobacco long after most people came to agree it was harmful, so too there are lobbyists today, who are paid by those who can see a short term gain in bolstering inequality, arguing for injustice and call it ‘freedom’.

Had you told someone in 1942 that there would come a day when smoking was banned in all public buildings they might well not have believed you. If you are told today that within your lifetime you could see social inequalities greatly reduced and the health and well-being of the population greatly increase as a result, will you believe it? Will our grandchildren ever understand why some people equate inequality with freedom?

Daniel Dorling, author of Injustice: Why social inequality persists
Other blogs featuring Injustice include: The Enlightened Economist and Out of Range.

Would you like to win a copy of Daniel Dorling’s Injustice: Why social inequality persists? Simply post a relevant comment to either the ‘The rise and rise of social inequality’ or the ‘Is social inequality addictive’ entry and we will enter you into a prize draw to win copy of the book, we only have one to give away so join the debate now! Closing date 30th April 2010.


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