Residents in London 'supported by fewer charities than rest of England'

A paper from the think tank Centre for London says although London is a hotspot for charities, there are fewer focused on exclusively local issues than in other parts of the country

London: many charities, but not all focused locally
London: many charities, but not all focused locally

People living in London are supported by fewer charities than the rest of the country, even though the city is home more charities than other regions, says a report by the think tank Centre for London.

The report, Hot Spots, Cold Spots: What’s Happening to London’s Local Charities?, published today, says that although London has traditionally been considered a hotspot for charities because so many organisations are based there, the number of charities actually focused on London and the needs of its population is lower than the national average and is falling.

The report, produced in partnership with the Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham, says charities are unevenly spread around the city, with more central local authority areas such as the City of London and Westminster benefiting from a large number of charities, whereas boroughs towards the city’s outskirts are less well supported.

The number of charities based in London rose by 7 per cent to 24,385 over the five years to 2015, while the number of England-based charities outside the capital fell by 1 per cent over the same period, the report says.

The capital accounts for 47 per cent of the UK’s charitable income and is home to 11 of the country’s 20 biggest charities, the report finds.

This leaves London with 2.8 charities per 1,000 people, significantly above the England-wide average of 2.4.

"For these reasons, London has previously been presented as a ‘hotspot’ for charitable activity, in contrast to ‘coldspots’ or ‘charity deserts’ in other parts of the country," the report says.

"But while there is some truth in this distinction, it is not sufficiently sensitive to the difference between where charities are based and where they operate.

"London is home to many large charities that do not confine themselves to capital-based issues and some that direct their charitable efforts entirely outside of it."

When the charity’s area of benefit listed on the Charity Commission website is taken into account, the data reveals that London has only 1.4 locally focused charities per 1,000 people, compared with 1.9 per 1,000 for England as a whole, the report says.

The local authorities of the City of London, Camden, Hackney, Islington and Westminster all have more than two London or locally focused charities per 1,000 people, the report says, whereas Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Brent, Hounslow and Newham all have fewer than one local charity per 1,000 residents – way below the English average.

And many areas of London have experienced a fall in the number of charities over the past five years, the report says, with Croydon experiencing a drop of 7 per cent, Kingston 5 per cent and Westminster, Southwark, Bromley, Waltham Forest, Hounslow and Hillingdon 4 per cent each.

The report says it seems improbable that the decline is due to London charities becoming larger or more effective or national charities taking on their work.

"The fall in London-focused charities is more likely to be a result of public funding cuts," the report says.

"Borough spending per head in the capital (excluding education and public health) fell by a fifth between 2010/11 and 2017/18, and cuts to ‘discretionary’ services, including support for the voluntary sector, [mean it] has fallen much further."

And the report warns the levels of need in the city are growing, with 27 per cent of Londoners living in poverty after housing costs, compared with 21 per cent nationally.

The report says: "It seems likely that, for all London’s economic growth and standing as a capital of charitable activity, London-focused charities, and their beneficiaries, have taken a battering."

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