spitalfields

Spitalfields in London wants to have its own council

Spitalfields (a hipster bit of London) wants to stop sharing a governing authority with its poorer neighbours and have its own council.

What it means: Spitalfields is a nice bit of London with an artsy market and some very Instagrammable lunch spots. But the rest of the council area it’s located in - Tower Hamlets - is not so wealthy. Tower Hamlets has the highest rates of income poverty, child poverty and pensioner poverty in England. Now Spitalfields says it doesn’t want to be part of the Tower Hamlets council area anymore. It wants to set up its own, independent version. Spexit, if you like (gah, sorry).

England is divided up into 353 local authorities. While the UK government deals with big, country-wide stuff, local authorities focus on local issues like schools, libraries and rubbish collection. They are elected (we vote for them), and are often made up of members from different political parties than the national government.

They get their money from things like the UK government, taxes on new developments, and council tax. Council taxes are different in different areas, and charged per household. The idea is that the more expensive the house is, the more council tax its occupiers pay.

Some people are suggesting that Spitalfields only wants to become independent because its richer residents are miffed that lots of their development tax and council tax goes to help the poorer bits of Tower Hamlets. But Spitalfields locals who back the idea say it’s actually because the current council area is too big and Spitalfields-specific problems aren’t given enough attention.

It’s a question of priorities - poorer areas tend to have problems that councils usually consider a higher priority for their time and money than the concerns of richer areas. A family that needs a council house to prevent them from becoming homeless is going to be put above getting some more street-lamps in Spitalfields. And most people would agree with that choice. But it’s also possible that the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and/or that it can be frustrating for Spitalfields locals if they feel they are (quite literally) being left in the dark.

Read our explainer on economic inequality.

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