The “Northern Powerhouse Liveability Index” is systematically biased against urban areas

Bradford: the least liveable place in the North, apparently. Picture by Tim Green on Flickr

The Your Housing Group housing association recently released a report entitled the “Northern Powerhouse Liveability Index”, which purports to map the “liveability” of various local authorities across the Northern Powerhouse (another name for the wider North of England, usually defined as the three government regions of the North East, the North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber). The release of this report has been covered by a few local news sources, with the main focus being on how negatively it scores the major urban areas in the “Northern Powerhouse” region compared to the rural areas. In fact, Your Housing Group’s own summary of the report is headlined: “Bradford, Manchester, and Sheffield among the North’s ‘Livability’ blackspots”. The most liveable areas – according to this report – are South Lakeland, Fylde, Craven, Ribble Valley, and South Ribble; all overwhelmingly rural. Can this really be true?

Well, no. There are several serious problems with this report; the most fundamental of which is the very narrow way in which it defines “liveability”.
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What Sheffield Council’s tree felling debacle tells us about the problems facing local government in the UK

Urban greenery in Sheffield on the bank of the River Don

Sheffield City Council have been in the headlines a lot recently, but for all the wrong reasons; namely, the felling of thousands of street trees throughout the city, and the response to protests that have erupted to stop them. 33 police officers were deployed earlier this month to safeguard the removal of a single tree. Two protesters were arrested days before – including a 74 year old man – at the site of tree felling works in the suburb of Dore. This may seem extremely heavy handed to an outsider just reading about this for the first time, but highly organised and persistent protests (lead by Sheffield Tree Action Groups, or STAG) have been happening since at least 2015 with the intention of disrupting contractors carrying out the work. These protests started out small, but have been gradually increasing in intensity over the years, leading to multiple arrests and threats of legal action against the Council. A couple were even accused in January of serving poisoned tea to workers outside their home.

The tree felling isn’t exactly popular with people outside Sheffield either. Bianca Jagger and Ken Loach have spoken out publicly against the tree felling. Jarvis Cocker recently branded the tree felling as “crazy”. Even Michael Gove has called for Sheffield Council to stop the “unnecessary destruction of trees”. It’s safe to say that Sheffield Council aren’t exactly the most popular local authority in the country right now.   Read more

The Reality of Regional GDP Inequality: Inner West London vs Literally Everywhere Else

Anyone with even a vague interest in the UK economy knows that London outperforms the rest of the country. The taxes collected there partially subsidise the rest of the UK, but Londoners also benefit from massively disproportionate amounts of public spending. This is nothing new: the North-South divide has existed for almost as long as the UK has been a country, and shows no sign of going away any time soon.

Still, despite being aware of this, this fascinating article on CityMetric yesterday brought to my attention some pretty eye-watering regional inequalities in GDP across the UK. The author uses Eurostat data from 2000 to 2015 to show that – in relation to the EU average – South Yorkshire’s GDP per head is strikingly similar to Greece’s:

Given the consistent media furore over Greece’s “tanking” economy, you’d expect there to be similar levels of outrage for the plight of the residents of South Yorkshire, right?

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