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Top Of The Pits

Top of the PitsWe're having a look at deprivation today - how deprived an area is.  You might be surprised how carefully Government measures this, but given that it is the foundation of much of Government's rationale for funding Councils, they see it as important.

We come from a rather different angle. We think funding anything (except charitable giving) on the basis of inaction and failure is  a pretty stupid way to go about things. It rewards failure and fecklessness, it offers no spur to improvement and alienates those who make the effort.

And if it's not Government, it's some QUANGO or another dishing out taxpayers money on the basis of what it believes is 'need' as measured by deprivation.

The main stats on the subject are produced by the 'Communities and Local Government/Social Disadvantage Research Centre' who use seven main headings to judge how deprived an area is.

They weight the topics to produce a sort of 'seasonally adjusted' overall figure. The weightings applied are currently:

  • Income Deprivation (22.5%),
  • Employment Deprivation (22.5%)
  • Health Deprivation and Disability (13.5%),
  • Education, Skills and Training Deprivation (9.3%),
  • Barriers to Housing and services (9.3%),
  • Living Environment Deprivation (9.3%),
  • Crime (9.3%)

The Research Centre assesses the deprivation of residents in every English Council, and after adding up and adjusting the scores achieved, it ranks them from 1 to 354 (because there are 354 Councils) using '1' for a borough that is the most deprived and '354' for the least deprived.

Because of the weighting, you can't use the stats to measure absolute deprivation, but you can use them to make relative assessments.

You can see the source documents here

When new stats are released local government anoraks get quite excited (yes really!) there are people who hang on the every word of such announcements in order to milk an extra few thousand out of Government and into their particular Council coffers.

This is because you get the prospect of boroughs going "up" or "down" just as popular music used to do each week on "Top of the Pops".

These changes are important to local government because significant changes in ranking position can bring about important variations in the grants handed out from Central to Local Government.

These days something in the order of 66% of Local Government's funding comes from Central Government, so the deprivation stats *are* important.


The present positions of the Councils local to this area are:

Blackpool has gone from the 24th most deprived area in England in 2004 to the 12th most deprived area in 2007. That's 12 places "worse" (or arguably "better" if the aim is to maximise your income from deprivation grants).

Fylde went from being the 240th most deprived area to being the 251st in 2007. That's 11 places less deprived, and probably the reason why Fylde's Government grant is lower this year.

It's a sad fact, but the better you do, and the less deprived you become, the less you are judged to need support, and the more you are expected to contribute locally. That's difficult to achieve when the charge you can make is capped.

Wyre improved 9 places from 161st most deprived area in 2004 to the 170th most deprived area in 2007/

The most deprived place in the England is Liverpool (No 1, and unchanged since 2004).

In terms of near neighbours, Preston is now the 48th most deprived place out of 354 in England, Lancaster is 117th and Ribble Valley improved from being the 288th most deprived to the 302nd most deprived, which makes it the least deprived place to live in the North West, with Fylde as the second best, and South Ribble third with a deprivation index that puts it 233rd out of the 354 councils in England.

The point of being a local Council is to be small enough to *be* the cultural identity of your electorate, but big enough to raise a precept that will meet their reasonable expectations. So in our book, if anything ought to change, local councils should be smaller, not bigger.

However, neither Government nor the Commissar agrees this is the right direction, and we are currently sleepwalking toward a dreadful merger with Blackpool and Wyre.

Even if there is no formal unification, it won't be long before the webs that are currently being spun to weave these Councils together will be all but impossible to separate.

So examining comparative stats for the three coastal Councils is relevant.

When you look at the deprivation, (and other stats will confirm this as we will shall see in future articles) if you set out with the intention of merging with two other Councils and have that merger take some account of geography, the best fit for Fylde is undoubtedly to form a crescent with Wyre and Ribble Valley. All three have similarities to unite them.

Merging a top performer like Fylde with a mid range Council like Wyre with the pits of Blackpool simply makes no sense at all - unless of course you are intent on improving your deprivation stats to increase your grant probability, and drag your area down.

We'll be looking at other statistics in the near future.

Dated:  7 February 2008


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