Too much poverty in East End, bishop—but not Canary Wharf’s fault

Open letter to the new Bishop of Stepney, The Rt Rev Adrian Newman, from Tower Hamlets Cllr Peter Golds: I congratulate you on your appointment as Bishop of Stepney in this most challenging of areas.

However, I do not believe as an elected representative of the Canary Wharf area that your recent press interview is an accurate portrayal of the Wharf (East London Advertiser, August 11).

Canary Wharf is one of the four great financial centres of this planet. Canary Wharf Group undertakes an enormous amount of work within the community and is much appreciated for it.

Just being at Canary Wharf station or on the DLR, morning or evening, one cannot fail to be struck by how diverse in terms of language and ethnicity those heading for the Wharf are.

I suggest those who work and run business in Canary Wharf have a far more diverse ethnic and educational background than the Director General’s team at the BBC, the editorial board of The Guardian or the Bishop’s bench in the House of Lords (with the exception of the Archbishop of York).

There is far too much poverty in the East End—but this is not the fault of Canary Wharf.

Business wants to hire more locally-educated staff. The problem is not the existence of a great financial centre, but rather educational attainment.

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In the area of London for which you are responsible, some 63 per cent of white working class and 50 per cent black Caribbean boys aged 14 have a reading age of seven or less.

Even worse, 50 per cent of men and 75 per cent women of Bangladeshi origin are unemployed.

A shocking 10 per cent of our young people have no educational qualifications, according to data provided by the University and College Union.

In the decade up to 2007, an OECD survey of industrialised nations revealed that the UK had dropped from 7th

to 17th in reading, 8th to 24th in maths and 4th to 14th in science.

This is the fundamental problem that we face as a nation. Too many pupils leave school with almost worthless qualifications, which are routinely dismissed by universities and employers.

An often shining exception is the many church schools in this area, a reason why they are invariably oversubscribed.

The world’s greatest financial centre is Wall Street—yet a short trip on the New York subway will take you to Bedford Stuyvesant, a neighbourhood of incredible deprivation and poverty.

Likewise, the boulevards of fashionable Paris are a short Metro ride from the crime-ridden and unemployment black spot of Clichy-sous-Bois. By contrast, this area of Paris has none of the advantages of Tower Hamlets and perhaps more of its disadvantages.

The common denominator of such areas is low educational attainment.

China is now producing more than three times as many engineering and science graduates as the US. Britain is trailing behind both.

London was once a power house for innovation. That needs to return if we are not to suffer as a borough, city and nation.

To achieve this, our young people need to be educated to compete with the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians.

I hope that in your ministry as Bishop of Stepney, you are able to see the good in having a world financial centre in the East End, while helping to raise educational standards to ensure that our young people can compete for every job that is available.

Cllr Peter Golds

Blackwall & Cubitt Town ward

Tower Hamlets Council

Town Hall