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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Indeed, what is the matter with Sheffield: a response to CityMetric

Sheaf Square. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Recently, CityMetric published an article entitled “What’s the matter with Sheffield?”, in which Jonn Elledge used the Centre for Cities data tool to show that Sheffield comes close to the bottom (out of the largest eight English cities outside of London) on almost every measure of economic performance, including business start-ups, GVA per worker, and workplace earnings. It also comes close to last on the ratio of public to private sector jobs and overall employment rates. Confusingly, Sheffield does pretty well on the education front, having a decent number of pupils achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs including Maths and English, having relatively few residents with no qualifications, and sitting comfortably mid-table for people with degree level qualifications. It also has two relatively big universities that are nationally and internationally respected, churning out as many graduates as the other large cities of the north. So, what’s going on here?

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