Chief Executive of Trust for London Manny Hothi provides a stark reflection on 2022 and looks towards the future.
As I write this the temperature outside is minus four degrees. Inflation is above 10%, driven largely by the cost of energy and food. The cost of Christmas will be bearing down on households that simply cannot afford the basics. For many, it is not a choice between heating and eating – they cannot afford to do either, at least not to a degree that any of us would consider acceptable.
People are tired. They are tired by crisis, by hardship, and the lack of hope that things will get better. Communities continue to step up, but their resilience has been stretched far beyond what is reasonable. Charity workers and volunteers are burning out.
As we roll from one crisis to another, I am conscious that the message that our funding is also being stretched by demand and constrained by economic volatility is unwelcome.
As we emerged from lockdown our endowment was in rude health. Our trustees were keen to support new initiatives to tackle the issues that Covid so cruelly exposed – the problem of low-pay, ongoing injustices faced by racialised communities, and disabled people.
We also made the decision to distribute more money to help with the current crisis. This included supporting our existing funded organisations facing inflationary pressures, and also providing funds to community organisations responding to the additional needs their communities are facing.
But this additional spending and falls in the stock market – where much of our endowment is invested – mean that there will be less money available to distribute next year, and possibly the year after. With public finances also on the retreat in the coming years, the outlook for funding could be akin to what happened in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash.
Many of us went through that period bruised but optimistic that a better world is possible. That world has yet to materialise, and it may seem foolish to hope once again, but this feels like one crisis too far. People have had enough and the conditions for change might well be emerging. It is time once again to dig into our reserves and believe that, through our collective endeavour, things will get better.
Our hope that a fairer city is possible will be embodied in a new five-year grant funding strategy, due to launch early 2024. Our commitment to you is that, whatever we decide to focus on, we will continue to provide money, facts and influence to those working tirelessly to improve life for low-income Londoners.
Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to all of our partners and funded organisations. We cannot deliver our mission to tackle poverty and inequality without you. I wish you all a merry Christmas and happy new year.