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Government / Local politics

Which parts of England have become more deprived in the last five years?

The government recently released the 2015 edition of its English Indices of Deprivation dataset. The last edition was in 2010 – so, by comparing the two, we can examine how has deprivation shifted since 2010.

Before we get to the headline findings, however, it is vital to understand the limitations of attempting to undertake such analysis. (This is technical geekery that you may want to skip – if so, scroll down to the maps and charts.)

Firstly, the methodology has changed between 2010 and 2015 making absolute scores impossible to compare. Secondly, new variables are used (and irrelevant ones discarded) which may change the overall pattern and results. Thirdly, relative weightings and correlations within the index may have shifted: this, too, makes direct comparisons treacherous.

Finally, we have used local authority values: these reduce the level of detail within areas compared to using the “Lower Super Output Areas” which the dataset covers. We are looking at entire councils, not individual neighbourhoods.

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However, we can make a comparison. Importantly, the overall ethos of the index hasn’t changed which means we can feel confident in exploring relative changes.

But we must be clear on what this shows. The data below shows how a particular area performs compared to all other areas in 2010, and then compares this relative position to their relative position in 2015.

From here we have two options – we can either use a simple ranking system of local authorities to show the change in positions between 2010 and 2015. Or, we can standardise both the 2010 and 2015 data by using z-scores. These show how many standard deviations away from the mean each point is, expressed as either a negative figure (i.e. the area is below the average value) or a positive one (i.e. the area is above the average value).

What we have done is used the overall Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) score of each local authority in 2010 to show how far away from the average they were then, and then compared this to their relative result in 2015.

So, without further delay, here are the results.

Relative change in performance of local authorities between 2010 and 2015.

Firstly, the change in relative performance varies quite a lot across the country. Indeed, London appears to have become (relatively) better off – particularly Greenwich, Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets.

Now, remember, it may not be that these areas have performed better itself (although parts may have) – rather, that other places may have performed relatively worse. 

Interestingly, there are only eight local areas – four in the South East, two in London and one each in the East Midlands and South West – that have moved from being below the average in 2010 to being above average in 2015.

There is also a marked difference in relative positions when we undertake the analysis by region within England. As the chart below shows, a large proportion of local authorities within London (76 per cent) and the South East (64 per cent) have improved  – that is, their position relative to the average has improved. Meanwhile, almost 80 per cent of local authorities in the East of England have worsened.

Relative changes by local authorities in each region.

So, what does this all mean? 

Well, a lot of factors are at play here – and, like all good research, it raises more questions than it answers. Here are three:

  • Are individual places actually improving or are other places getting worse?

  • Has the change in methodology and variables (for example house prices and affordability) skewed the results to show significant shifts between 2010 and 2015?

  • Are places across the country well-equipped to deal with the challenges that deprivation brings?

However, the interesting point for me is how this may be affected by ongoing devolution. If places have more powers and budgets to solve local problems, can they improve their area and decrease deprivation?

The degree to which they are able to achieve this will depend on a variety of factors – not least what could be potentially stated in the Autumn Statement and Spending Review later on this year.

Joe Sarling is associate director of planning consultancy Nathanial Lichfield & Partners. This article was originally posted on the firm’s blog.
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