Westminster is a very wealthy borough and one of the most prosperous in the country with the average income of residents being the third highest of any borough in the UK. Despite this there are pockets of extreme deprivation and poverty; the statistics below paint a picture of a borough in the mists of an inequality crisis with extreme disparity of income, high levels of child poverty and a significant housing shortage.
In January 2018, the End Child Poverty coalition published figures which reveal that:
Westminster is 6th in the top 25 local authorities with highest levels of child poverty across the UK with 41.29% of children in poverty in 2017 (after housing costs)
Westminster North is 15th in the 25 parliamentary constituencies with highest levels of child poverty across the UK with 44.41% of children in poverty in 2017 (after housing costs)
As price rises risk pushing ever larger numbers of children below the poverty line, the coalition is calling on the Chancellor to end the freeze on children’s benefits – currently in place until the end of the decade – so that families no longer see living standards squeezed as prices rise.
Since the introduction of the benefit freeze, the coalition of charities, faith groups and unions has warned that as prices rise, low income families would find it increasingly hard to pay for the same basic essentials.
The coalition is also concerned that the impact of poverty may be exacerbated by a poverty premium – which means that low income families can face paying as much as £1700 per year more than better off families, to buy the same essential goods and services. A major contributor to this is the high cost of credit for low income families, and the coalition wants to see the Government address this by providing better access to interest free credit.
• Church Street is the worst ward in London for Child Poverty with 50% of children living below the poverty line. (London’s Poverty Profile – New Policy Institute)
• Westminster is the most deprived Lower Super Output Area in England based on Income Deprivation Affecting Children (Greater London Authority Intelligence Briefing 2010)
The inequality between wards in Westminster in striking
• 14% of Westminster neighbourhoods are in severe deprivation which is defined as being in the top 10% of deprived neighbourhoods in the country. (Understanding Social Needs in Westminster –NPC Think Tank October 2012)
• 52% of all out of work benefit claimants in Westminster live in the most deprived 25% of areas compared to less than 5% of residents in the best 25%. Westminster is the second most polarised borough in London in terms of out of work benefits claimants, second only to Chelsea and Kensington. (London’s Poverty Profile – New Policy Institute)
• 50% of the population classified as deprived live in just 5 wards—Westbourne, Queens’ Park, Harrow Road, Church Street and Churchill
(Understanding Social Needs in Westminster –NPC Think Tank October 2012)
• Westminster is in the 2nd worst borough in London for pay inequality with the lowest quartile earning £24 an hour less than the highest quartile. (London Poverty Profile 2013 – Trust for London)
• Church Street has the 4th lowest median household income of all the wards in London at £19,572 and Knightsbridge and Belgravia the highest at £91,552. (Greater London Authority experimental small area household income estimates analysis of results 2014)
• Queens Park, Church Street, Westbourne and Harrow Road are in the top ten wards in London for working age incapacity benefit claimants for mental health reasons. (Westminster Primary Care Trust Annual report 2012-13)
• Westminster has the biggest variation in life expectancy across the social gradient in the country with a man born in the most deprived area expecting to live 16.9 years less and a woman 9.7 years less than those born in the most affluent areas. This gap has widened over the past 5 years. (Westminster Primary Care Trust Annual report 2012-13)
• 30% of housing in Westminster is overcrowded as defined by the government, which is the third highest in the country, significantly higher than the figures for London and England averages at 17% and 7% respectively. (Understanding Social Needs in Westminster –NPC Think Tank October 2012)
• 80% of Westminster’s neighbourhoods are in the worst 10% for housing in England. (Understanding Social Needs in Westminster –NPC Think Tank October 2012)
• 25% of all rough sleepers in England are in Westminster. (Homeless Charity Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields)