Exodus: destination Southend for poor Londoners
June 2, 2013 2 Comments
I was born in Westcliff-on-Sea, but am of south London descent. Dad came from Peckham, mum hailed from Eltham. Like so many in Southend-on-Sea, I am the product of the steady exodus from the capital.
Also like so many my parents move here was part of a continuing journey. Ware-Lanes originate from Liverpool (West Derby to be precise) and moved south in the mid-nineteenth century. The de Lobels (mum’s dad) came to London in 1914 from Belgium.
Both families chose the Essex seaside as an escape from the crowded city and to improve their lives.
Southend-on-Sea is full of first or second generation London exiles. It is this migration that created the town in the first place, a town that two hundred years ago was a collection of small hamlets. Those that came, came through choice. Those that came, came to make better lives for themselves. Those that came fulfilled ambitions. The town’s large West Ham United following is testament to an east end heritage not yet forgotten.
Today it seems that we are still seeing a London influx. If the stories are true (an example here) then we are seeing a different type of exodus; an exodus driven less by desire than by desperation.
We are seeing a Government intent on punishing the poor for being poor. Whilst the very rich are getting richer, those at the opposite end of the scale are seeing living standards declining. Changes to benefit rules are seeing housing benefit capped and a bedroom tax introduced. These changes do not just affect the jobless; millions of low-paid workers are also affected. The net effect of this is that London has become unaffordable for many, and they are being squeezed out. Some will come to Southend-on-Sea, whose principle attraction for them is its comparative affordability.
It would be odd for someone of London descent to object to other Londoners coming here, and I do not. However, I do find it objectionable that some are coming because they are here being forced to. A London cleansed of its poor is not a good thing, and whilst I accept the some reform is needed I do not accept that this should see people already in desperate circumstances made more desperate.
Some are predicting large numbers coming to the seaside from up river. I have no hard data on this, but do not see it as incredible. The reforms are only just beginning to bite, and as the changes really take hold it is easy to envisage ever larger numbers of poor Londoners seeking respite in Essex.