Four in five Londoners think their city should have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the country

Rich and poor: Poplar's Robin Hood Estate, with the towers of Canary Wharf behind it. Image: Getty.

Nearly eight out of ten Londoners (78 per cent) think their city should have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the country, new research by the London Fairness Commission has found. Even more (83 per cent) think it should be at least £9.15 – the figure currently set as the London Living Wage by the Living Wage Foundation. 

This polling, carried out by leading market research agency Survation, was commissioned by the London Fairness Commission – the first citywide debate on fairness since Charles Booth mapped levels of poverty and wealth over a hundred years ago.  Over the next 9 months, we will be asking Londoners to consider how they view fairness, whether London is a fair city, and what, if anything, should be done to make London fairer. 

These are tough questions – but rather than starting with the answers we will listen, reflect and then pass our findings to the new mayor next year.

Our polling found that half of all Londoners don’t feel that their wage is a fair reflection of what they do at work. And only 1 in 4 believe their pay has kept up with the cost of living over the past five years.

But while many are worried about pay, Londoners appreciate the cultural assets and multicultural society of their city.  A majority (58 per cent) feel London is a place where people have an equal opportunity to succeed in life, regardless of their background.

Interestingly, when respondents were asked to choose the three best things about London, the second most popular choice was that "London is a multicultural city where people from different ethnic and religious groups are brought together". The most popular was that London is a cultural centre with "something to suit everyone". Meanwhile, the things named as the worst things about London were the cost of housing and the cost of living.

Our poll also found that a majority of Londoners (57 per cent) believe it is not fair for people to paid very high salaries when others in London are struggling to get by. However, a third of men (33 per cent) and a quarter of women (24 per cent)  took the opposite view, saying that it is fair for top earners in London to be paid very high salaries as they contribute great value to London’s economy.

When presented with actual figures, 79 per cent of Londoners feel it would be unfair for a CEO running an organisation that employs people on the National Minimum Wage to be paid more than £500,000 a year. 

This preference is strong amongst those intending to vote both Labour and Conservative at next year’s mayoral election.  Some 86 per cent of those intending to vote Labour and 70 per cent Conservative believe £500,000 is a fair maximum.  However, nearly 1 in 5 (19 per cent) Conservative voters believe there is no such thing as an unfair salary for a CEO employing someone on the minimum wage. 

In so many ways, London is a unique city and its residents will therefore have a unique understanding of what is and is not fair. So the London Fairness Commission is currently asking individual Londoners and organisations based in London for their three fairness priorities. 

We’ll be using these findings to guide our discussions with Londoners over the coming months.  You can find details of our ‘Call for Ideas’ on our website here.

Liz Meek is the chair of the Centre for London and commissioner of the London Fairness Commission.

 
 
 
 

Two east London boroughs are planning to tax nightlife to fund the clean up. Will it work?

A Shoreditch rave, 2013. Image: Getty.

No-one likes cleaning up after a party, but someone’s got to do it. On a city-wide scale, that job falls to the local authority. But that still leaves the question: who pays?

In east London, the number of bars and clubs has increased dramatically in recent years. The thriving club scene has come with benefits – but also a price tag for the morning clean-up and cost of policing. The boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets are now looking to nightlife venues to cover these costs.

Back in 2012, councils were given powers to introduce ‘late night levies’: essentially a tax on all the licensed venues that open between midnight and 6am. The amount venues are expected to pay is based on the premises’ rateable value. Seventy per cent of any money raised goes to the police and the council keeps the rest.

Few councils took up the offer. Four years after the legislation was introduced, only eight local authorities had introduced a levy, including Southampton, Nottingham, and Cheltenham. Three of the levies were in the capital, including Camden and Islington. The most lucrative was in the City of London, where £420,000 was raised in the 2015-16 financial year.

Even in places where levies have been introduced, they haven’t always had the desired effect. Nottingham adopted a late night levy in November 2014. Last year, it emerged that the tax had raised £150,000 less than expected in its first year. Only a few months before, Cheltenham scrapped its levy after it similarly failed to meet expectations.


Last year, the House of Lords committee published its review of the 2003 Licensing Act. The committee found that “hardly any respondents believed that late night levies were currently working as they should be” – and councils reported that the obligation to pass revenues from the levy to the police had made the tax unappealing. Concluding its findings on the late night levy, the committee said: “We believe on balance that it has failed to achieve its objectives, and should be abolished.”

As might be expected of a nightlife tax, late night levies are also vociferously opposed by the hospitality industry. Commenting on the proposed levy in Tower Hamlets, Brigid Simmonds, chief executive at the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “A levy would represent a damaging new tax – it is the wrong approach. The focus should be on partnership working, with the police and local business, to address any issues in the night time economy.”

Nevertheless, boroughs in east London are pressing ahead with their plans. Tower Hamlets was recently forced to restart a consultation on its late night levy after a first attempt was the subject of a successful legal challenge by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Kate Nicholls, chief executive at the ALMR, said:

“We will continue to oppose these measures wherever they are considered in any part of the UK and will urge local authorities’ to work with businesses, not against them, to find solutions to any issues they may have.”

Meanwhile, Hackney council intends to introduce a levy after a consultation which revealed 52 per cents of respondents were in favour of the plans. Announcing the consultation in February, licensing chair Emma Plouviez said:

“With ever-shrinking budgets, we need to find a way to ensure the our nightlife can continue to operate safely, so we’re considering looking to these businesses for a contribution towards making sure their customers can enjoy a safe night out and their neighbours and surrounding community doesn’t suffer.”

With budgets stretched, it’s inevitable that councils will seek to take advantage of any source of income they can. Nevertheless, earlier examples of the late night levy suggest this nightlife tax is unlikely to prove as lucrative as is hoped. Even if it does, should we expect nightlife venues to plug the gap left by public sector cuts?