There is no money for hanging baskets of flowers on the streets of Islington, but there is more than enough to pay the expenses of the local Great and the Good assembled for the borough’s first Fairness Commission held earlier this week, pet project of council leader Catherine West. She is shocked by the extremes in poverty and wealth in the borough and has brought in Professor Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level (which the TPA countered in a recent paper - The Spirit Illusion), to chair the regular meetings to be held throughout the year with the result of producing a report on which the council will then base its future policy.
It might seem obvious but surely the record extremes in wealth and poverty in the area are down to its very geography rather than any other more sinister explanation? Within a short ride of the City, there are inevitably many mega-earners living cheek by jowl with recent immigrants and long-term unemployed in the crowded streets of the borough. It is very difficult to see any way you could ever square that fact of life, but no doubt Professor Wilkinson, Cllr West and their agonised colleagues will try at our expense. Although they may not get the answers they expect.
One left-leaning attendee of the meeting made the controversial point to me that many of the long-term unemployed living in social housing in the area are not really befitting from the proximity to central London but suffering from its costs. Maybe they should be helped to move out of town, he suggests, and free low-cost housing for low-earners desperate to get a living place near their work? The council’s own figures presented to the Fairness Commission show that the number of unemployed in the borough has risen despite there being 1.3 jobs available for every resident of working age.
After three decades of living in Islington, my family and I have decided to make the move out of the borough. Why should those supported by the taxpayer be exempted from this natural process of moving in and out of London? Former Islington councillor Dave Barnes will be representing Islington TPA from now on as I return to my home city of Bath.
Tim Newark, Islington TPA