The opening of the DLR connection across the Thames to Woolwich had at least one consequence which surprised even TFL.  It had been forecast that the connection would enable Woolwich people to access jobs etc. north of the Thames but no one had foreseen the surge in shoppers from Canning Town and Beckton taking advantage of accessible local shopping in Woolwich!

Never before in history had people in Canning Town and Beckton been easily and cheaply able to reach Woolwich just a mile or two away. It’s an amazingly graphic illustration of what being able to cross a river can do for the people and their local economies. 

There are 19 vehicular bridges and 6 footbridges west of Tower Bridge between London Bridge and Hampton Court; on the other hand East London makes do with 2 substandard tunnels (Blackwall and Rotherhithe), 2 foot tunnels and an ageing ferry shortly to be pensioned off.

You could say that in this respect the riparian residents of London east of Tower Bridge are hugely disadvantaged compared to their west-of-Tower-Bridge compatriots.  On its own such a disjunction would probably be something they could live with but it isn’t. These same bridgeless London residents (who make their contribution through taxes to all those bridges they don’t use) are far more likely to live in poor environments, live shorter unhealthier lives, be out of work or, if in work, less well paid. 

All this seems rather unfair! It’s been unfair for centuries; so much so that we could be forgiven for thinking that east of Tower Bridge the community doesn’t need the same facilities and life chances. 

But seismic changes are underway; the population is growing and becoming richer; the financial and business centre of London is moving East; property values are rising as demand in London outstrips supply. 

Heavens above! We are going to need those bridges so that all these new East London professionals can be unimpeded in their travel arrangements; “people like us” need facilities like ours. The bridges will come.

But what about the people whose families have for centuries been cut off from Londoners on the other side of the river? That’s easy, rising housing prices and lowering benefits mean that many of them will no longer be living by the Thames, they simply can’t afford to. 




Will Convergence Survive Gentrification

Roger Taylor - Director of the Growth Boroughs Unit

Growth Boroughs have the highest levels of the worst deprivation in London; its nothing to be proud of, just an inescapable fact that our residents are poorer, less healthy, more likely to be out of work than people in the rest of London.

Convergence, our cornerstone, is about changing that by ensuring that over the next 20 years, we and our local, regional and national partners make sure that our residents conditions improve to the point where they can at last enjoy the same life chances as other Londoners.

There's a problem; we measure the deprivation and our Convergence targets as proportions of the total population so if the population increases and healthier better educated migrants locate in our Boroughs often pejoratively described as Gentrification, then proportionately the scale of deprivation may diminish.

What this means is that, theoretically we could achieve or get close to our Convergence goal without doing anything to improve the lives of our residents and rely on inward migration to make it seem that the job's been done and the problem of a centuries old shameful sore on London solved.

But the problem hasn’t been solved. All that will have happened is that the acute levels of deprivation which the Growth Boroughs are determinedly challenging have been diluted by inward migration of better skilled, better off people and by the outward migration (aided and abetted by housing benefit and welfare changes), to cheaper housing of some, but by no means all of the population which in 2012 hoped for some benefit from the Games.

So what’s to be done? Well Convergence was never about manipulating the demographic statistics of the Growth Boroughs. It was always about enabling our communities to benefit from the forecast massive growth of the local economy through improved education, health, skills and employment.

We all know that the types of gentrification and change we are considering help to secure improved education and health facilities, better public realm, greater employment opportunities and so on.

But the changes the Growth Boroughs face, call for a robust reminder to beware the siren voices who will argue that we can achieve Convergence by doing nothing and letting the population change.

For the 1.5m people now living in the 6 Growth Boroughs the need to achieve fairness in terms of education, health, employment and decent affordable and social housing within the context of massive economic opportunity remains the challenge that we are determined to tackle.

This is why we are committed to maximising economic growth as we believe that the best route out of deprivation and poverty is through improving the resilience of our communities and strengthening their pathways into work.

If we are to achieve that then we need to remain the priority for London as the Mayor has already indicated; we need to find ways of accelerating infrastructure investment in transport, housing and public services through new partnerships with the Mayor and new funding arrangements for London’s sub-regions.

With local employers and investors we need to take back control of the Skills agenda and the funding that goes with it. We need to build new approaches to Job brokerage modelled on our hugely successful work with ODA, LOCOG and LLDC that will repair the gaps left by the work programme which is failing so many of our people. We need to continue to forge close relations with our new health partners.

We need to keep on with our 20 year goal to achieve Convergence; London’s greatest challenge is to bring fairness to our acutely disadvantaged communities.



Convergence and Culture


Ruth Mackenzie CBE

Consultant and Recently Director, Cultural Olympiad at London 2012

As Director of the Cultural Olympiad, I was proud to have the opportunity to oversee the largest cultural festival the UK has ever seen. The London 2012 Festival promised a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ experience and it did just this, with some of the world’s biggest and most revered artists taking part, from Jay Z to Olafur Elliasson. We were proud to involve our leading UK artists, including Martin Creed, Mike Leigh, Tracey Emin and Jeremy Deller and we strived to create experiences people would never forget and that they would cherish forever.

We also sought, following De Coubertin’s vision, to boldly position culture side-by-side with the greatest sporting event in the world. In doing this, we were saying something about our time - about the extraordinary creativity of the UK in the 21st century and the quite unique ability of arts and culture to bring our people together. I am proud to say that we reached audiences of over 43.4million and we commissioned over 40,000 artists.

Our remit was UK wide – we had to reach and involve people from across our Nations and Regions and of course, culture was a key part of London 2012’s armoury in this respect. However, we delivered significantly in the east London boroughs. Those living here were the hosts and had their lives most acutely effected by the games - and they needed to be connected too. Events such as the Radio 1 Hackney Weekend, initiated by Create, did just that and on real scale. Create itself had much to do with our work in east London and our joint commissions, such as those with Frieze Projects East and Jeremy Deller were indeed highlights of the programme and reached tens of thousands of east Londoners.

I am happy, as a Create London Board member and as someone who led on culture for 2012 and was charged with leaving a legacy, to see that Create continues to grow. With a staggering 55-60% of east Londoners still unengaged with arts and culture, it needs to.  Connecting the wealth of London based artists and arts institutions to people who live in the area is a mission we cannot do without. Deprivation is a significant barrier to engagement, but during a time of continued change in the area, and indeed as the creative industries continue to enjoy significant growth, artists are ideally placed to bridge and support those living in challenging conditions. New Create London projects such as Open School East, the Blackhorse Workshop in Walthamstow, give us real evidence to show how artists, connected to community life can provide real riches and opportunities for positive change.

I would argue that Culture and the arts, if channeled effectively, can cut powerfully across many areas of the ‘Convergence’ agenda, a strategic plan to socially and economically transform east London. East London’s 13,000 artists and creative businesses, if enabled and supported are placed to bring real insight and practical skills to issues such as making neighbourhoods safer, contributing towards job creation and well-being. Artists are assets to any community, we have to work harder for all to see the merit of this. The work Create is doing is bold, dynamic and nudges artists into spaces in our community where real lessons can be learned and progress made. We must all continue to support them.

Ruth Mackenzie

Ruth Mackenzie 
CBE     Consultant and 
Recently Director, Cultural Olympiad at London 2012

Ruth Mackenzie CBE 

Consultant and Recently Director, Cultural Olympiad at London 2012

East London on the Economic Map

Paul Donovan - Managing Director of Global Economics at UBS 

Most cities seeking to host the Olympics offer some story of economic regeneration as part of their bid – to win support from the domestic population, as well as the IOC. The success of these regeneration attempts in past Olympiads has been mixed. Indeed, relatively few Olympiads have had an enduring positive economic effect.

Creating economic regeneration in the host boroughs of London was going to be a challenge. There was a risk that the benefit of the Olympics would accrue to London as a whole, with the host boroughs being lost in the larger city. There were also considerable structural problems to overcome in a region that has been the economic ‘poor end’ of London for half a millennium or more.

However, the early signs from the economies of the five boroughs suggest that hosting the Games has brought economic benefits, and these benefits could very well endure. The key economic benefit of hosting an Olympics is the massive global media focus on a city or an area, causing people and businesses to rethink their attitude towards that location. The success of London 2012 does appear to have changed attitudes towards East London.

One of the most impressive statistics for the host boroughs is the inward migration of skilled workers. A significant proportion of people moving to the host boroughs in the run up to the Games have NVQ level 4 qualifications or higher. This means that the average skills level of the host boroughs’ population has risen. The fact that the host boroughs have been able to attract skilled workers brings direct benefits like employment security and income. There are also indirect benefits – such people can serve as role models for younger people in the community.  The influx of skilled workers helps to explain why the host boroughs had the fastest employment growth in London in recent years (though unemployment remains high, as more people are entering the labour force). Of course, much of the employment of residents will take place outside of the five boroughs, but economically that is not necessarily a problem for East London.

The other fact signalling economic success for the host boroughs has been a rapid growth in the number of active businesses. The number of active business grew markedly in advance of London 2012, and the pace of growth was substantially higher than in the rest of London. Local businesses do not necessarily mean local employment, but local businesses provide demand for other local services (anything from staff using nearby shops during their lunchtime, to local firms supplying goods and services into the business itself).

By putting East London on the economic map London 2012 has supported the local economy. Moreover, trends like increasing skilled residents and increasing the number of local businesses are a structural boost – less likely to fade over time. Provided the momentum behind improving infrastructure and housing is maintained, the five host boroughs should be able to outperform the rest of London, and by doing so converge with the London average in terms of economic performance.

Paul Donovan



Paul Donovan - Managing Director of Global Economics at UBS 

Paul Donovan - Managing Director of Global Economics at UBS 

Have the Legacy Promises for East London been delivered?

Richard Sumray - Former Chair of the London 2012 Forum

 It was well over fifteen years ago that, having looked at fifty possible sites across London, Stratford stood out as being the one that could be the most transformational. This was years before the bid for London to host the 2012 Games became official. From my perspective, I had always believed that London could host a magnificent Games but I also believed that it could do what no other host city had more than very partially achieved which was to create an enduring and sustainable legacy that would change London for the better for decades. Centring the Games on Stratford could act as the catalyst for the regeneration of the whole of the Thames Gateway, transforming areas of deprivation into thriving and cohesive communities.

Deciding to bid and then winning it in 2005 ensured a national and regional focus on East London for a decade. So what has changed? There is no doubt that Stratford with Westfield Shopping Centre and the Olympic Park is unrecognisable compared to when we first assessed its potential. Not only that but the establishment of the LLDC, led by the Mayor but with borough involvement will ensure a healthy future for its geographical area of responsibility. The long term future of the venues is secure but, more important than that, the approach taken to engage and involve local communities as stakeholders has been and remains critical to long term success.  (Incidentally you cannot host something as large as the 2012 Games without some communities being adversely affected).

Crossrail, to open out and properly connect East London, has been a major prize even though it wasn’t ready in time for the 2012 Games. 

The boroughs are working more closely together through the Growth Boroughs Unit and that will help create a coherent approach in the period ahead especially with the aim of Convergence being so central.

The question in the title, though, still remains. Mainly this is because we won’t know the answer probably for another twenty years. My own view is that, looking back, the picture will be mixed. Government attention and investment still needs to be focused on East London but for now it has been withdrawn. There may be pockets of investment such as in Silvertown which will make a difference but I’m doubtful that the regeneration will be as coherent as it could be. The boroughs and the Mayor cannot do it by themselves. Other opportunities have already been missed with benefits from the highly successful Games Maker volunteering programme not being maximised and community sport having a patchy legacy.

One thing I am sure of, is that London’s Games has already achieved and, with continued focus, will achieve a richer and more diverse legacy than any previous Games. Maybe we can’t ask for more than that?

Richard Sumray

Richard Sumray - Former Chair of the London 2012 Forum

Richard Sumray - Former Chair of the London 2012 Forum

A Fitting Legacy

Frances O’Grady - TUC General Secretary

The TUC backed London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for a number of reasons.

We believed that it was time for one of the world’s great cities to stage one of the greatest sporting occasions.

We saw this as an opportunity to inspire a generation to take part in sport.

But most of all we recognised the legacy benefits that the Games could bring.

We wanted to see the physical transformation of a part of London that had been neglected for generations.

But most of all we believed that a world class sporting event should be associated with world class employment standards: during construction, during the Games themselves and, especially, through into the legacy period.

That was a high ambition. And rather like Team GB we did not achieve all that we set out to do in 2012. But with high safety standards, a commitment to the London Living Wage and fair treatment for volunteers, we can be proud of the fact that the Games were better for our involvement.

Now comes the real test – carrying that commitment through over the coming years and decades and making sure that the Games leave a real lasting legacy.

We are committed to doing that through our engagement with the legacy company and with the growth boroughs.

Raising employment standards including fair pay, reducing inequality, respect and a voice at work, these are our priorities for the economy and the country as a whole.

But would it not be great if the boroughs that hosted the 2012 Olympics could set an example for others to follow?

We do not underestimate the scale of the task. Reaching the growth boroughs’ target will be a big achievement, but just as important will be the way we go about it through the co-operative working and high standards that we saw before and during the Games.

Frances O’Grady - TUC General Secretary   photo by Sarah Turton  

Frances O’Grady - TUC General Secretary

photo by Sarah Turton 

Frances O’Grady