London assembly for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

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.

Labour London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE has today called for an investigation into reports that Metropolitan police officers have been issued with arrest and stop and search targets. Mrs Arnold’s call follows a Channel 4 investigation which found that officers in one London borough had been issued with targets which she argued would disproportionately impact upon BAME communities and result in an increased breakdown of trust in the police.

The Channel 4 report alleged that leaked documents had shown that officers in one London borough were “expected to arrest at least two people every month, as well as to stop and search at least four. They were also ordered to issue at least one penalty notice or get a case to charge stage and to make a minimum of four entries in the force’s intelligence database.” Under questioning from Ms Arnold at today’s London Assembly Police and Crime Committee Assistant Met Commissioner Craig Mackey denied the reports and said the Met was “absolutely clear” that targets of this kind should not be used.

Despite consistent denials from the Met, this is the third time in the last year that they have been accused of implementing arrest and stop and search targets. Ms Arnold is now calling for a full investigation to get to the bottom of the reports and to help reassure the public that officers are not carrying out unnecessary stop and searches to hit artificial targets.

Speaking after the Committee meeting, London Assembly Labour Group Equalities Spokesperson, Jennette Arnold OBE said:

“The allegations arising from Channel 4’s investigation are deeply concerning. All the evidence shows that stop and search disproportionately impact on minority communities, if targets are being set for their use that is going to have a big impact on trust in the police within those communities.

“Whilst the Assistant Commissioner’s reassurances are welcome, we must be clear that a return to the bad old days of stop and search targets will not be tolerated.

“This is the third time this year that serious concerns have been raised about stop and search targets which could do irreparable harm to community relations in the capital. What we need to see now is an investigation to get to the bottom of these reports and ensure that police officers, whether at a local or central level, are not being issued with arrest and stop and search targets.”


In Mayor’s Question Time, I challenged Boris Johnson on his failure to assist the thousands of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) graduates in London that leave university but can’t find employment. When I asked him what he is doing specifically to help BAME graduates find work, he failed to offer any answers and even turned the blame back on young Londoners for not being willing to take the existing jobs.

Many ethnic minority young people are better qualified than their white British peers, but are up to three times as likely to be unemployed once they enter the labour market. Only 11% of the Mayor’s senior staff members are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups (2 out of 18), and none of the organisations the Mayor is accountable for come close to representing the diversity of London’s workforce, which reaffirms just how out of touch he is with the diversity of London today.

As Manchester University’s recent report shows, over the past decade, we’ve seen a fabulous rise in the number of people from minority ethnic groups obtaining a degree, with several minority groups outperforming their white British peers. Yet unemployment rates amongst young ethnic minority graduates remain up to three times as high as white Brits.

Time and time again, we hear Boris celebrating the diversity of our great city, but his words mean nothing if he fails to offer real solutions for young, ethnic minority graduates. We are in a position whereby there is very quickly becoming a lost generation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) graduates.

He should lead by example and work as hard as possible to ensure his own teams are representative of the diversity of London, but the figures prove otherwise. He’s had 6 years as Mayor to address the diversity of his immediate Mayoral Team, but a paltry 2 members of staff (11%) are from BAME ethnic groups. 30.3% of London’s working population is BAME, but none of the bodies the Mayor has oversight for come close to this figure. Workplace figures for all parts of the GLA Group that the Mayor has oversight of do not reflect BAME working population figures for London (Metropolitan Police Officers has 10.5%; the Greater London Authority at City Hall has 24% with the majority of these on lower pay grades; and TfL has 27%, which is down from previous years).

It’s clear to me that, when it comes to diversity, Boris is very good at being the “PR politician”, giving the impression that he takes diversity seriously, but, once again, failing to put these empty words into action. The Mayor must be held accountable for his failure, and I will continue to push as hard as I can to champion the cause of young BAME graduates.

At the end of last year, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, disgracefully equated vulnerable sections of society to ‘cornflakes’ in his infamous Margaret Thatcher speech.  He also went on to state that inequality is ‘natural’ and ‘essential’.  His oxymoronic cure for inequality (which in London equates to thousands using foodbanks and sleeping rough whilst the ‘super-rich’ thrive) is to cause further hardship for vulnerable groups because, he believes, it is healthy to foster a ‘spirit of envy’.

It is shameful that the Mayor of a city as diverse and wealthy as London can advocate such a view and get away with it.  Despite the reams of evidence that demonstrate the structural inequality across the capital, the Mayor keeps his fingers in his ears and lets the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  It is made even worse that this is due not only to his general incompetence, but also to his genuine, personal outlook on society – as demonstrated in his speech at the Margaret Thatcher lecture.

My cost of living report, Falling Further Behind, is a rebuttal to the Mayor’s dangerous ‘cornflake economics’ and underlines the structural inequality that exists in London and the actions that he can take to lower the barriers to success, which are outlined in the paragraphs that follow.

The evidence in my report shows that Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds face barriers to success due to low pay; employment discrimination; food poverty; lack of appropriate childcare provision; high public transport fares; and high rents.  A report by the Runnymede Trust for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community in 2012 found that 25% of the unemployment rate for Black and Asian men and women is a result of prejudice and direct discrimination.  The report also found that BAME women face discrimination ‘at every stage of the recruitment process.’  London’s Poverty Profile shows that half of all people in poverty in London are from BAME backgrounds.

Londoners with disabilities face barriers due to a smaller supply of suitable, accessible housing; cuts to disability allowances; food poverty; inaccessible public transport; lack of specialised childcare provision; and barriers to employment.  This in turn, has forced many to turn to food banks and risk their health by cutting back on heating so they can afford the bills.  According to the London Cost of Living Survey, 74% of disabled Londoners have cut back on heating their homes in order to afford their energy bills.

Women face various barriers due to a lack of affordable childcare; low pay and low pensions; insecure employment contracts; public transport safety concerns; and widespread sexual discrimination.  Once again, the Mayor falls short when addressing this inequality.  Indeed, in February 2014, the Mayor claimed women are not ‘anywhere near’ achieving equal employment opportunities in the labour market, but that his own pool of advisers, in which ‘almost half’ of the staff are women, was an example of how things could be done.  However, it turns out that only 4 of his 14 paid advisers are actually women (28%).

The inequality story for young and older Londoners can also not just be dismissed as a result of, what the Mayor, in his speech, put down to, ‘natural and God-given talent’.  Children and young people are facing barriers to success due to hunger impacting on their education; being forced to pay out high rents for accomodation; the cancellation of the education maintenance allowance; increased university tuition fees; and a lack of job opportunities.  Meanwhile, elder Londoners are facing hardship due to high energy bills; malnutrition; and rising costs of everyday necessities.  As highlighted in my report, it also appears that Londoners are retiring later than people in other parts of the UK with 11% of those aged 65 and over in work compared with the national average of 9.5%.  In the North East, this figure is 6% (Source: ONS Annual Population Survey).

The negative impact of the cost-of-living crisis extends to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, too.  Those who identify as LGBT face societal discrimination which feeds into employment opportunities and, notably, housing.  Due to a high risk of domestic abuse, LGBT Londoners who are victims of abuse also struggle from a lack of emergency accomodation in the city.  Studies have also shown that the vast majority of homelessness services work with people who identify as LGBT.

Whilst the Mayor takes economic advice from the back of his cereal box, my report suggests that Londoners across the city are suffering.  I urge the Mayor to take steps to address this inequality to help those groups protected under the Equality Act 2010.  I believe that action can be taken on these issues and that inequality is not inevitable.  It is certainly not ‘essential’ as the Mayor suggests.  Boris argues that vulnerable Londoners require inequality and envy to ‘shake’ them to the top, but it is he that needs to be shaken into action.  The evidence and recommendations outlined in my report show that the barriers facing vulnerable groups are not ‘natural’, but structural, and it is time for the Mayor to recognise this and work to make London a city of equal opportunity for all, instead of a city of inevitable and, as he argues, justifiable inequality for the majority.

Today, I launch the report, Falling Further Behind, which looks at the impact the cost-of-living-crisis is having on vulnerable people across London, and those protected by the Equality Act 2010.

The report finds that, despite being one of the wealthiest cities in the world, the most vulnerable people in London are falling further behind the rest: 9 out of 10 disabled Londoners are concerned about how to meet the rising costs of their energy bills; 92% of BAME Londoners worry about affording their travel expenses; and 75% of young people across our capital find it hard to pay their rent.

It’s unacceptable that vulnerable Londoners are bearing the brunt of the policies of the Mayor and the Government at Westminster. Boris is wrong to believe that inequality is natural or essential and this report gives firm recommendations that he can take to close the inequality gap in London.

Today’s report is a rebuttal to the Mayor’s ludicrous claim that vulnerable people in society are ‘cornflakes’ that require inequality and envy to ‘shake’ them to the top. This report outlines just how misguided his ‘cornflake economics’ is and it is he that needs to be shaken into action. On Wednesday, the government will present its budget, four years in to their term, and the truth is stark, as we already know, we are not ‘all in this together’. This report shows that it is those already marginalised who have been hit the hardest by the cuts.

Rest assured, I will continue to challenge the Mayor, as I have always done, to address the inherent inequality across London and this report provides an excellent tool through which to continue the fight.

I would like to thank Areeq Chowdhury and Abena Oppong-Asare in the Labour Group at City Hall for their tremendous work in writing this report, and you can access a full copy of the report by clicking here.

At yesterday’s Mayor’s Question Time, I called on Mayor Boris Johnson to use his powers and money to help young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Londoners who are being disproportionately affected by the high rates of unemployment – through dedicated skills, education and training programmes to get people off the unemployment register and into work.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s recent report, Labour market status by ethnic group, shows that the unemployment rate among Pakistani and Bangladeshi people aged 16-24 is 46%, and for young Black people it is 45%, compared with 19% for White British people aged between 16-24.

The Mayor has a responsibility to ensure that all BME Londoners have the same opportunities as other people in London, and I am very concerned that the Government’s own figures suggest that this is not the case across our city and across my constituency of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest. Levels of unemployment across all groups in London are unacceptable – and I’m a firm advocate of policies aimed at full employment – but the disproportionate rates of joblessness for BME people are simply disgraceful.

The Mayor agreed with my point in Mayor’s Question Time, which is a start, but I remain concerned that he couldn’t give me specific details about the programmes he has put in place to specifically target young BME Londoners to help them find employment.

Since yesterday’s meeting, I have written to the Mayor to ask him for specific details of any programmes he has put in place to help tackle unemployment and support young BME people to get the skills and qualifications needed to enter the job market. I repeat my call for him to put his words into action and ensure that all Londoners – regardless of ethnicity – can benefit from the job opportunities that our great city can offer.