Better safety is among Londoners’ post-Covid priorities, says report

Greater safety on London’s streets, better jobs, and tackling homelessness and poor housing are among Londoners’ priorities as the capital recovers from the pandemic.

This is according to the final report of a multi-year research programme led by the think tank Centre for London. The report, Greater London, puts forward an ambitious vision for a fairer, safer, more prosperous and greener city and will be launched today at a major gathering of city leaders to discuss the capital’s future. The research explored in depth what Londoners would like to see prioritised by politicians and decision-makers.

Polling undertaken by Savanta for the report found that around a third of Londoners chose improving safety on the streets (34 per cent), creating jobs and employment (34 per cent) and tackling homelessness (32 per cent) among their top five priorities. And when asked what one thing they would change about London, Londoners were most likely to mention housing (13 per cent), crime and safety (9 per cent), pollution (7 per cent), traffic (6 per cent) and the cost of living (6 per cent).

Responding to the views of Londoners, Centre for London has worked extensively with businesses, universities, City Hall and boroughs, civil society, charities and community groups to develop 10 priorities for London and an associated package of policy interventions designed to ensure they’re delivered. These include:

To improve safety on the streets, the report calls for an independent review of London’s policing needs, using the findings of the review as a basis for creating a new Greater London Police Service and a Greater London Criminal Justice Council.

To ensure that all Londoners have a home which is in good repair, large enough for their needs and where they feel secure, the report calls for a raft of measures including an increase in local housing allowance for London renters on benefits and devolving control of housing related benefits to London boroughs.

To address the cost of living and ensure that everyone has enough money to afford everyday essentials, the report argues that government should make sure that benefits and the minimum wage match the needs of living in London and are adapted to the real cost of living in the city.

The research was undertaken at a time of immense turmoil for the city. London suffered hard during the pandemic, with the highest rate of deaths due to COVID 19 (after adjusting for age) of all English regions and Wales over the period March 2020 to September 2021. But the city has also been hit hard by the economic fallout – London had the highest number of staff on furlough out of any English region from July 2020 until the close of the scheme, and the highest increase in Universal Credit claims, and London’s unemployment rate is 30 per cent higher than the national average.

Rob Whitehead, Director of Strategic Development, Centre for London said: “As we emerge from to the biggest crisis to hit London since 1945, we have an opportunity to build a better city, driven through a conversation with Londoners themselves.

“Our findings confirm what might seem obvious: it is issues like safety, jobs and housing that Londoners are most concerned about today.

“The mood of Londoners may be a reflection of how badly the city suffered during the pandemic, with our economy being hit particularly hard and poverty rising in many boroughs. People outside London don’t always see this, and many are assuming the city will just bounce back more easily than other parts of the country.

“The city’s leaders need to come together behind a shared vision for the future to take us through to 2050. ensure many of the deep social issues that made the spread of Covid worse are addressed and that we work together to build a fairer, safer, more prosperous and greener city.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:  “Throughout my Mayoralty I have prioritised the policy areas that Londoners have identified as concerns – investing more than £1 billion into our police, building record numbers of affordable homes, introducing and extending the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone to help clean up London’s air and committing to an unprecedented package of skills funding to help Londoners into good jobs.

“But there is still more to do to ensure our capital recovers from the pandemic to be a greener, fairer, safer and more prosperous city.

“I will always stand up for Londoners and work with Government and other decision-makers to support existing jobs as well as creating new ones, maintaining and building warm, comfortable homes, ensuring the streets we walk are safe and the air we breathe is clean.”