Review: Our London

Dan Young

Do young Londoners like me still have the same opportunities as the last generation? That’s one of the questions asked by Shadow London Minister Sadiq Khan in ‘Our London’ – a book devoted to debate and discussion on the future of our city.

In his introduction to the book, Sadiq talks about his upbringing in Tooting and the opportunities his family had having come to London from Pakistan in the 1960’s. Opportunities in education which enabled him and his siblings to access proper apprenticeships and decent, stable jobs, which in turn gave them the opportunity to save up for and afford their own homes for their families. Unlike a lot of MP’s, Sadiq has had a varied career before coming to parliament. Running his own business meant he could afford to buy a home for his family in the same part of town as where he grew up. I am sad to say this is not a London that I and many of my peers recognise today.

Whilst the cost of housing, transport and energy spiral out of control, real wages continue to fall. Londoners are facing a very real cost of living crisis. For most families in outer London their biggest expense is travel and some people now spend over £2000 a year on simply travelling to and from work. To help take this burden away from working families we need to stop discussing fare rises and even fare freezes but begin to discuss fare cuts.

In ‘Our London’ Sadiq highlights that ‘working poverty’ is now one of London’s most significant challenges – it has risen by 60 per cent in the capital over the past decade. There are now more than a million low-income families where at least one adult is working. With costs of living in London rising faster than wages, we need to find new ways of making sure it pays to work.

I’m proud to have been part of the team that help push through Barking and Dagenham Councils £9.03 living wage (which is now the highest in Britain) and these are the things that Londoners should be talking about. Employers should pay a living wage wherever possible, and despite the fact that a growing number now do so, there is still much more to than should be done. We need to look at additional ways to deal with low pay, such as a London minimum wage, an idea which merits serious discussion in Kitty Ussher’s chapter.

‘Our London’ is packed full new ideas and fresh thinking. Contributions from academics and experts with no political affiliation, like Professor Tony Travers, and from other political parties, such as Jenny Jones, sees the book transcend above the usual party politics. From devolving funding for unemployment to local government to building new bridges and tunnels – it’s an exciting glimpse into where we go next, and how we take all Londoners with us and ensure no one is left behind.

And now is the time to be bold. Over the next 30 months, Londoners will elect their local councillors, representatives in the European parliament, their local MP, the prime minister, their London assembly members and the next mayor of London.

It’s an exciting time to be a Londoner and high time that we kick start the discussion on how we can shape our city so that regardless of age, sex or race, we all benefit from its successes.

Dan Young is chair of London Young Labour

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