Blog Post

Like England, London needs levelling up too

Many London areas face high levels of deprivation and poverty. Our Research Manager Josh Cottell explains the challenges they face, and why they must benefit from the levelling up agenda. 

The Government’s white paper says that levelling up means giving everyone the opportunity to flourish. In London, a city often associated with such opportunities, considerable inequality and poverty mean that many people cannot access them. Despite this, the government’s geographical approach to levelling up the UK has tended to ignore unique challenges that the capital faces. What are those challenges?  

While there are a disproportionate number of people on very high incomes in London, the very high cost of housing means that the rate of poverty in London (27 per cent) is higher than any other region in England (22 per cent on average). Nine of the ten local authorities in England with the highest rates of child poverty are in London, with 56 per cent of children in Tower Hamlets living in poverty – the highest rate in the country. 1

While London as a whole has more jobs per person than other regions, this is not true across the city, with outer London having a lower job density than the UK average. For other reasons too, people in many parts of London lack good opportunities to access the job market that the city is famous for. For instance, not everyone in London has access to the city’s excellent public transport network, such as in public transport ‘cold spots’ like Thamesmead and parts of Sutton.  

For those who are able to get a job, some don’t receive high enough wages to get by. 2 In all London boroughs, at least 10 per cent of the working population earns less than the Living Wage for London, and this rises to 25 per cent of workers in some areas (Barking and Dagenham, Brent, and Enfield). 3 

Some parts of London are among the most deprived in the country. The government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation brings together a range of measures such as income, and also things like access to services and jobs and the quality of the environment. In some London boroughs, very few areas are among the most deprived areas in England. But in other areas the opposite is true. In Barking and Dagenham, 98 per cent of areas in the borough are among the most deprived half of areas in England, and 45 per cent of areas are in the most deprived fifth in England.  

Like any geographical area, London is a complex place with pockets of prosperity sitting alongside pockets of deprivation. Like England, London needs levelling up too.   

1 Note: Our analysis of individual boroughs includes 32 boroughs in London, excludes City of London.  

2 As defined by the calculations behind the Real Living Wage.  

3 Our analysis compared the earnings at different percentiles of the distribution in 2021 with the Real Living Wage for London at the time. 

To strengthen the case for levelling up London, we’ve put together key statistics which showcase the different challenges in each of the capital’s 32 boroughs, and how they compare to each other. Click here for an interactive map where you can explore the data for each London borough.  

Josh Cottell is Research Manager at Centre for London. Follow him on Twitter. Read more from him here.