Why focus on inequality at a time when public services are crumbling? Islington’s council has an answer: The problems that public services address — from crime to mental health — all get worse as the gap between rich and poor widens. A community’s resilience is gravely impacted by inequality. As everyone strives to have as high a social status as possible, people are forced to compete against one another to consume more and have the faster car or the bigger house. In the end, more is consumed and no one is a winner.
Inspired by the book, “the Spirit Level: why equality is better for everyone”, the newly elected members of Islington’s Borough Council last July created what they called a “Fairness Commission” and asked this new panel to help “make Islington a fairer place to live and work.” That fairness, the Council made plain, will require an Islington “with less income inequality.” Not an easy task given that Islington is home to some of the richest people in London and yet also has pockets of severe deprivation with child poverty in Islington at 50%.
Here is an article about the work they’ve done. A final report, Closing the Gap, has also been produced by the Commission which includes an impressive set of recommendations from improving environments and growing food on housing estates to paying at least the London Living Wage to all staff employed in the area.
It’s definitely one to watch as it develops. I also wonder how Transition might be able to contribute. Local community equalities groups, seeded by the Equality Trust (the organisation that inspired the Islington Fairness Commission) are springing up all over the country – perhaps Transition could form local alliances or even support setting up similar groups. See the Equality Trust website for further info.