Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall
London’s rising inequality will be Boris’ shameful legacy

London’s rising inequality will be Boris’ shameful legacy

It is widely acknowledged that when Boris leaves the Mayoralty next year he will leave behind a trail of broken promises, but perhaps the most shameful of these is his broken promise to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) parents: that their children will not have to struggle with the same disadvantages that they endured.

A recent report by The Runnymede Trust found that ethnic inequalities in London have risen substantially throughout Boris Johnson’s time in office. With disturbing levels of unemployment, poorer health outcomes, and overcrowded housing, Boris’ London continues to pose a bleak reality for many ethnic minority communities.

We’ve seen a welcome rise in educational attainment levels amongst black students, but this has failed to translate into improved employment opportunities.  Boris’ misleading jobs pledge has had particularly negative ramifications for ethnic minorities in the capital. Despite promising to generate 200,000 jobs by 2016, recent figures have revealed that, with a year to go, the Mayor has only delivered just over half of these, which just exacerbates the situation by increasing competition for the jobs that are available in a job market that reaps fewer rewards for BAME applicants relative to other groups.

Boris’ failure to bridge the gap in employment opportunities between BAME and White British Londoners is mirrored by a stark disparity in earnings.  In his ‘2020 Vision’ the Mayor pledged to make the Living Wage ‘the norm’, but on his watch we’ve witnessed a sharp fall in the percentage of employers paying the London Living Wage.  The impact of his failure to tackle poverty wages is most apparent amongst Pakistani and Bangladeshi employees, with nearly half (44%) earning less than the London Living Wage.

When I challenged Mr Johnson on why his Mayoralty has led to increasing inequality for ethnic minorities at a Mayor’s Question Time back in February 2014 he admitted that ethnic minorities were being handed an unfair deal when it came to accessing the opportunities that our great city provides.

I might be forgiven, therefore, for expecting him to provide me with some concrete steps he’s taken over the past year to remedy the situation, when I challenged him again at Mayor’s Question Time yesterday.

True to form, however, Boris failed to give a coherent answer and simply pointed to his record of recruiting young BAME people to his minimum-wage apprenticeship scheme; something that will do little to help the millions of other ethnic minority Londoners who are falling further behind when it comes to accessing employment opportunities, housing and health services.

The Runnymede Trust’s report is a sad read for London’s BAME communities, highlighting yet another failure of Boris Johnson’s reign as Mayor. Despite all the promises, pledges and puff the evidence shows that Boris is on course to leave a shameful legacy of a more unequal London than the one he inherited in 2008. For everyone this is a tragedy but, once again, it will hit BAME communities hardest – and I will continue to push, as I always have, for equality to be put at the heart of the Mayoralty as we approach the London elections in 2016.