Press Release

New research finds most London boroughs have seen a decline in locally focused charities

New research from Centre for London published following Small Charity Week, has suggested that charities focused on London causes plateaued during the five years to 2015.

Read the paper

Analysing Charity Commission data based on charities’ ‘area of benefit’, Centre for London found that the capital has significantly fewer locally based charities than the rest of the country – just 1.4 per 1000 population, compared to 1.9 per 1000 for England as a whole. Moreover:

  • While London’s population grew 7.5 per cent between 2009/10 and 2014/15, the number of charities focused on London causes plateaued during the five years to 2015.
  • While some inner-London boroughs, such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets, saw  increases in local charities, most saw a fall. The decline has been seen in inner London boroughs, including Westminster (-4%) and Southwark (-4%), but is particularly notable in outer London ones, including Croydon (-7%), Kingston (-5%), Waltham Forest (-4%) and Hounslow (-4%).
  • Local charities are unevenly spread across the city. The City of London has a particularly large number of London-focused charities, but other inner London boroughs are also well-endowed. Camden, Hackney, Islington and Westminster all have more than two London or locally focused charities per 1000 population. But Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Brent, Hounslow and Newham, all have less than one local charity per 1000 residents – way below the English average.

This decline is set against a backdrop of high levels of poverty in the capital: after housing costs, 27 per cent of Londoners live in poverty, a figure six percentage points higher than the rest of England, and the same level as a decade ago.

The decline in outer London charities is particularly concerning as poverty rates have been increasing. In 2001, there was only one outer London borough among the 10 poorest London boroughs, by 2011 there were five. In 2011, Brent, Ealing, Redbridge and Enfield had a higher poverty rate than Lambeth or Camden.

Charity Commission data does not allow us to establish whether the relative decline in the number of local charities serving Londoners has been accompanied by a decline in charitable funding, but other evidence suggests it has. Government data shows a fall in charitable giving in London from 81% in 2013/14 to 74% in 2016/17. Meanwhile, borough spending per head – including support for the voluntary sector – has fallen a fifth between 2010/11 and 2017/18.

London is often presented as an important national and global capital of charitable causes. While the number of charities based in London has risen by 7 per cent – in sharp contrast to England as a whole were the number of charities fell by 1 per cent – the Centre highlights that the picture looks very different when looking only at London based charities focused on London.

Ben Rogers, Director at Centre for London, said:

“London is sometimes presented, as a ‘hotspot’ for charitable activity, in contrast to ‘coldspots’ or ‘charity deserts’ in other parts of the country.

“But our analysis shows that while there is some truth in this distinction, it’s not sufficiently sensitive to the difference between where charities are based and where they operate.

“Parts of the city, and the people who live in it, are in desperate need of support. Yet the number of locally focused organisations seems to be in decline.”

This short report forms the first publication in a strategic review that Centre for London is undertaking looking at trends in giving and how London can give more, give better and give together. The final report, including recommendations, is scheduled for publication 3 September, 2018.



  • Centre for London is the capital’s dedicated think tank.
  • This project was generously supported by Sir Harvey McGrath.
  • Centre for London and Third Sector Research Centre analysis of Charity Commission data, undertaken in 2017/8
  • 27 per cent of Londoners live in poverty: Trust for London (2018), London Poverty Profile
  • Rising poverty rates in outer London: Bosetti, N (2015), Housing and Inequality in London, Centre for London
  • Fall in charitable giving: Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Community Life Survey 2016-17
  • Borough spending: Centre for London (2017). The London Intelligence April 2018. London: Centre for London.