London boroughs are braced for many of their residents experiencing the “hardest of hard times” over the coming months, even with the cost-of-living measures announced by the chancellor today.
The cross-party group London Councils welcomed the increase to the Household Support Fund, which it calculates will bring an extra £68m for London boroughs to distribute to the most vulnerable households for covering the cost of essentials such as food, clothing, and utility bills.
However, London Councils expressed concern at the continuing uncertainty over government plans for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which boroughs say is crucial for economic development, skills and employment support in the capital. Boroughs had hoped to receive details on London’s funding allocation and more guidance on local investment plans for the funding.
Cllr Georgia Gould, Chair of London Councils, said:
“Against a backdrop of skyrocketing inflation and high unemployment and poverty, many Londoners are going through the hardest of hard times.
“Boroughs are doing all we can to support our residents through this cost-of-living crisis, and the chancellor’s boost to the Household Support Fund will provide some much-needed relief. Boroughs’ local knowledge and community links mean we can ensure the money gets to those who need it most.
“But there’s so much more the government could do to ensure councils are better resourced to deliver targeted local welfare support for hard-pressed households in London and across the country.
“We’re disappointed there is no more detail on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will be key to tackling London’s longstanding challenges around unemployment, low skills, and poverty. Boroughs are urging the government to confirm that no region will receive less investment than under previous EU funding arrangements.”
London Councils has highlighted how boroughs need sufficient funding and freedom through the UKSPF to maintain programmes helping jobless and low-skill Londoners find work and gain qualifications.
The capital’s economy was particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, worsening longstanding challenges around unemployment and poverty. London has the second highest unemployment rate in the UK (5% compared to the UK-wide figure of 3.9%). The capital has the highest number of residents receiving universal credit (937,773) among the regions.
More than one in four Londoners (27%) live in relative poverty after housing costs are taken into account – the highest of any region.
Recent research shows 80% of Londoners have seen an increase in their cost of living over the past six months, with 13% going without essentials or relying on debt because they struggle to make ends meet.