Sean Baine is the Chair of The Equality Trust and a London Fairness Commissioner.
Seven years ago saw the publication of The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. It demonstrated that more equal societies led to longer and healthier lives, greater trust amongst its citizens and greater social mobility and innovation. It had enormous impact and influence worldwide. One of the responses in this country was the establishment of Fairness Commissions, with the London Borough of Islington being the pioneer and others quickly established in a number of authorities across the country. While the main aim of Fairness Commissions was to look at issues of economic inequality in their areas, each developed their own distinctive agenda covering a wide range of issues – including how local agencies could act in an age of austerity.
Up to the establishment of the London Fairness Commission all previous commissions have been sponsored by their local council. An argument was made for the London wide commission to be independently set up and run. My Fair London and Toynbee Hall partnered in 2014 to make this happen. Both organisations hold the principles and purpose of tackling inequality and poverty in London and nationally. My Fair London is a campaigning group affiliated with the national Equality Trust, itself set up as a response to The Spirit Level, and Toynbee Hall was set up in 1884 and with an ambitious aim to eradicate all forms of poverty. Together they secured support from Trust for London, Tudor Trust, City Bridge Trust and London Funders. Toynbee Hall is acting as secretariat under the management of James Scott with Margarethe Theseira as Chief Policy Adviser to the Commission.
There are 15 Commissioners representing the world of business, government, civil society and academia and chaired by Lord Victor Adebowale. The Commission is politically neutral and there are no politicians on the Commission. We have, however, engaged with the Mayor candidates, the Assembly and London Councils throughout our proposal development.
The move from highlighting problems of unfairness in London to a plan of action took place. The Commission engaged with Londoners in a variety of ways, including a survey, a Call for Ideas, street listening and engagement and five open space events. The outcome of listening to Londoners and these engagements influenced the areas of recommendations made by the Commission.
This is an exciting and challenging time for London. We are in the lead up to the London Mayoral election taking place on 5th May 2016. The aim of the Commission has been to identify the key challenges that London faces if it is to become not just the leading global city but also an exemplar of fairness. Our package of recommendations demonstrates ways the London Mayor can tackle these challenges to make London fairer.