Inequality: if you believe Thomas Piketty and Danny Dorling, it's the main issue of our times. And there's probably no better illustration of inequality than our own city. The superrich buying houses in Knightsbridge as somewhere to park their money, bankers playing with national economies in the City and Canary Wharf, while at the same time, over a third of London's children live below the poverty line and residents in council housing are being moved on in favour of new developments.
The latest of Changing London's reports, which crowdsourced Londoners' concerns and attempts to turn them into workable proposals in time for the next Mayoral election, covers making us a fairer city. Changing London advocates that the next Mayor uses the position as a bully pulpit to make a difference — for example, lobbying government for a higher minimum wage for London, as well as continuing the slow grind of getting the whole city signed up to the London Living Wage (LLW). The other side of that coin is executive pay; less equal societies tend to be less healthy, trusting and peaceful. Changing London suggests an approach to top level remuneration similar to that taken on the LLW, of City Hall signing up companies to measures like maximum pay ratios.
Of course we can't forget housing — and neither does the report. We all know the problems with our overheated market ('affordable rent' levels of up to 80% of market rates, poor doors, developers reducing and buying their way out of affordable housing levels with Section 106 agreements). Solutions are much harder to come by, but Changing London suggests more shared ownership for the squeezed middle, long term contracts for private renters and public bonds for homebuilding.
This may all sound like utopian socialist skythinking, but the report repeatedly refers to cities in that notorious Communist country, the United States. Seattle, for example, has just voted through a massive $5.90 increase in its hourly minimum wage, and New York's new mayor has unveiled plans to build 200,000 affordable homes over the next decade, which contrasts with London's plans for half that in eight years.