James Scott manages the secretariat supporting the London Fairness Commission.
The London Fairness Commission set itself a big challenge. As our chair, Lord Victor Adebowale, told the audience at our Launch Event on the 1st June 2015, ‘We believe the public of London should have a chance to discuss what fairness means to them, what it looks and feels like, and hopefully agree a fairness ‘standard’ against which they can hold future politicians accountable based on the decisions they make’. We aimed to hold a public enquiry that started with questions rather than the answers, and that would build a set of recommendations for a fairer London that reflected the responses we received.
Over the past eight months we have conducted a programme of listening and research to inform the recommendations for building a fairer London, which we will publish in our Final Report at the end of March. Our programme began with the publication of a short pamphlet – ‘Is London a fair city?’ – which detailed a range of facts to spur debate about the nature of unfairness in the capital.
At our launch in June at Toynbee Hall we issued a Call for Ideas, asking organisations and individuals to send in submissions that answered three simple questions – What is fairness? Is London fair? How could Londoner be a fairer city? Partnering with the Guardian, we received over 100 submissions covering range of perspectives, and which started to focus our work into the areas of housing, income and wealth.
At the same time we also conducted a survey of two thousand Londoners, allowing us to paint a representative picture of how Londoners view fairness in general and relating to a number of specific issues that had been highlighted in our Call for Ideas. We learnt that a third of Londoners do not think their city is fair, and that access to housing and the cost of living are most the most unfair thing about living in the capital. No surprises there really.
But we also found a concern over high pay – 70% of those intending to vote Conservative and 86% of Labour voters believed that a salary over £500,000 would be unfair for a CEO – and low pay – 78% agreeing that the London minimum wage should be higher than the rest of the UK. A majority of Londoners did not feel that their wages had kept up with costs over the past 12 months.
During the summer we also collected testimony from twenty-two expert organisations, covering issues of housing, wealth and income unfairness, held two focus groups with business leaders from the financial, legal and professional service sectors, and organised a round table with young leaders from London Youth.
In September we published our Interim Report at an event sponsored by the London Evening Standard and held at Guildhall. We explored in detail unfairness in housing, income and the cost of living, and the distribution of wealth in the capital, and set out a series of ‘fairness dilemmas’ that would define the scope of our future research. Writing about our research findings at the time, Rohan Silva, columnist in the London Evening Standard, said ‘Ask 10 Londoners whether they think our city is fair and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Put the same question to 2,000 Londoners, as the independent London Fairness Commission has just done, and a much clearer picture starts to emerge’.
Throughout the autumn we shifted our focus onto certain groups in London who might have experience of living with acute unfairness in London. To do this we held a five of ‘open space’ meetings, and through collaboration with Race on the Agenda, London Youth, Age UK London, and the London Voluntary Services Council, invited civil society groups, BME community groups, older persons’ organisations and young Londoners to discuss their experience of unfairness in London and to think about potential solutions.
The detailed outcome of these each of these events can be read here.
Finally we are now running the #LDNvoices initiative, portraying the opinions and stories of everyday Londoners who are unlikely to engage with a process such as ours. Have a look at our findings on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
The Commissioners are now entering their final phase, developing recommendations for building a fairer London having reviewed and considered all the findings from the previous eight months of listening and research.
The nature of unfairness in London is clear – increasing levels of income and wealth inequality, narrow opportunities for young Londoners moving from education to the workplace, a ‘London premium’ that makes the cost of living too high, and of course a lack of secure, affordable and decent homes across all sectors. What Londoners now need is action.