What’s your biggest concern? If you’re a Londoner, right now the chances are that Brexit is top of your list. Given the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU and the impact it is set to have on all our lives and the economy, this is unsurprising. But while the government focuses on delivering Brexit, it’s not the only thing concerning Londoners.
According to Ipsos MORI’s Issues Index, the other issues worrying Londoners the most (in order of importance) are the NHS, crime, housing and poverty.
Healthcare and the NHS
Healthcare continues to be one of Londoners’ biggest worries. More than a third of Londoners (37 per cent) ranked it among their top priorities in the last quarter of 2018 – up five percentage points on the previous quarter.
The graph below shows the number of A&E patients not attended to within four hours, a common though criticised performance indicator. Though performance has remained outside of the five per cent target, there was a slight improvement on the previous year and London hospitals do slightly better than elsewhere in the country.
On the other hand, there has been a 10 per cent reduction in delayed transfers of care (when a patient is ready to be discharged but remains in hospital due to other care arrangements being delayed). Nevertheless, NHS bosses expect Brexit will increase staffing shortages, making it harder to meet sustained patient demand.
Crime has long been a concern of Londoners. With violent knife crime hitting the headlines almost as frequently as Brexit, it’s no surprise that Londoners are more worried about it than the rest of the country. Around a quarter (24 per cent) of Londoners believed it to be one of the most important issues in the last quarter – up three percentage points when compared to the previous year.
However, official statistics show that there has been little change in overall crime levels over the past year and violent crime has actually gone down. For example, knife crime declined by 9.3 per cent in Q3 2018 when compared to the previous year. Though some have criticised official statistics, as some types of crime may be underreported, this is less likely to be the case for violent crime.
Yet, public perceptions of crime are a measure of how safe a city feels, so to address this, the Mayor of London has recently established a new violence reduction unit, which will adopt a public health approach in its treatment of crime as a social virus.
Housing has traditionally been a top concern for Londoners and although this has dropped by five percentage points in the year to Q4 2018 (to 21 per cent), it is still a bigger concern than for the British average (17 per cent).
However Brexit turbulence might have had a silver lining. With house price rises slowing to a crawl, more people have been able to get on the housing ladder. Figures show that the number of first time buyers in London was at its highest since 2015. On the other hand, following a period of decline, rents have started rising again, pushing up the proportion that rent per tenant represents out of individual income to nearly a third.
However, lack of confidence is also affecting the delivery of new housing, as net additional dwellings in 2017/18 fell to below half the level stipulated by the draft new London Plan. A decline in the number of planning applications is a warning that delivery may not pick up any time soon, driving housing prices up once more.
Poverty and inequality
Poverty and inequality rank highly among Londoners’ concerns, although surprisingly they tend to be less concerned than the rest of the country. Londoners are also less worried about poverty than they have been previously, with a five percentage point decline over the last year.
Though concern for poverty has declined in London, inequality has not, and patterns of need are changing. Whilst unemployment is at a record low, in-work poverty is beginning to climb, as is poverty among private renters. Social housing stocks are also shrinking, homelessness is increasing, and the number of people sleeping rough in the capital grew 17 per cent in the year to Q3 2018.
All these issues will need to be addressed by the Mayor of London, government and businesses. With Brexit potentially set to be delayed, we may not be able to wait until the dust settles to turn our attention to other long term priorities.
As the concerns change, we’ll be keeping an eye on the issues facing London. To stay up to date with The London Intelligence, sign up to our newsletter.