We all know that London has major problems with traffic congestion, air pollution and housing shortages. These are all symptoms of a population that has been growing rapidly and is now way too large for the supporting infrastructure.
One of the causes of the rapid increase in the population is immigration into London from Europe. The Daily Telegraph have published an article that spells out the figures after an analysis of applications under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) that allows EU citizens permanent residence in the country. The figures they report are not just unexpectedly high, they are truly astonishing.
The article (see reference below), reports that 35% of the population of the London Boroughs of Newham and Brent are EUSS applicants. Some 1.8 million people have applied in London, meaning 1 in 5 Londoners are EU citizens. But other UK towns such as Northampton, Boston and Corby now have major proportions of EU migrants as residents.
As the article says, these numbers are startling and are much higher than previous Government estimates of EU migration. This has meant that estimates of requirements for school places and healthcare provision have been wildly wrong.
But the worse impact of this unplanned migration has been on housing and transport provision, particularly in London. This problem has been ignored by politicians in London for far too long. They have ignored the cause of the problems that have been created because they don’t wish to be seen as critical of the social problems that such immigration has caused.
Further EU migration might be deterred in future but we will have to live with the problem that has been caused. Massive investment will be required to cope with this influx.
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As anyone who has lived in London for more than a few years probably knows, the population of the metropolis has been rapidly rising. This has resulted in ever worse congestion not just on the roads but on public transport also. The roads are busier, rush hours have extended and London Underground cannot handle the numbers who wish to travel on some lines during peak hours. Even bus ridership has been declining as the service has declined in reliability and speed due to traffic jams.
The Greater London Authority (GLA) has published some projections of future population numbers for the capital and the conclusion can only be that life is going to get worse for Londoners over the next few years.
The current population is about 8.8 million but is forecast to grow to 10.4 million by 2041, i.e. an 18% increase. This increase is driven primarily by the number of births and declining death rates. The relatively high numbers of births in comparison with what one might expect is because London has a relatively youthful population. One can guess this is the case because of the high numbers of migration from overseas which results in a net positive international migration figure while domestic migration to/from the rest of the UK is a net negative, i.e. Londoners are being replaced by immigrants.
But population increase in London does not have to be so. The chart above shows you the trend over the last 100 years and as you can see London has only recently reached the last peak set in 1939. During the 1960s to 1990s the population fell. What changed? In that period there was a policy to reduce overcrowding in London and associated poor housing conditions by encouraging relocation of people and businesses to “new towns”. But when Ken Livingstone took power he adopted policies of encouraging more growth. His successors have continued with those policies and have promoted immigration, e.g. with Sadiq Khan’s “London is Open” policy.
Many Londoners complain about the air pollution in the London conurbation without understanding that the growth in businesses and population have directly contributed to that problem. More people mean more home and office heating, more transport (mainly by HGVs and LGVs) to supply the goods they require, more emissions from cooking, and many other sources. The Mayor thinks he can solve the air pollution issues by attacking private car use and ensuring goods vehicles have lower emissions but he is grossly mistaken in that regard. The problem is simply too many people.
Building work also contributes to more emissions substantially so home and office building does not help. But the demand for new homes does not keep pace with the population growth resulting in many complaints that people have to live in cramped apartments or cannot find anywhere suitable to live at all. Likewise new public transport capacity does not keep pace with the increased demand. There is some more capacity on the Underground but only on some lines and not much while Crossrail which might have helped has been repeatedly delayed.
The economy of London is still buoyant. But all the disadvantages of overcrowding in London mean that Londoners are poorer in many ways. Those who can move out by using long-distance commuting or relocating permanently thus leaving London to be occupied by young immigrants.
Any Mayor who had any sense would develop a new policy to discourage immigration, encourage birth control and encourage emigration to elsewhere in the UK or the Rest of the World. But I doubt Sadiq Khan will do so because a poorer population actually helps him to get elected.
If Sadiq Khan wanted Londoners to live in a greener, pleasanter city with a better quality of life then he would change direction. But I fear only intervention by central Government will result in any change. In the meantime those who live in London might like to tackle their potential MPs, Greater London Assembly Members and prospective Mayors for what they would do about the problems covered in this article.