The Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey 2012 – Cumbria’s Economic Viability and its Failings Highlighted
The Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey tracks where living standards are highest in Great Britain by ranking local performance across key indicators covering the labour market, the housing market, the environment, education and health.
The survey examines all 119 rural local authority districts and is based on data at local authority district (LAD) level. Data has been gathered from a number of sources, including Halifax, Point Topic (Broadband data), ONS, DEFRA, the Met Office, the Department for Transport, Department of Children, Schools and Families, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Government and the Scottish Executive.
The definition of rural for the purposes of this survey was to use the ONS definition of communities i.e. those of less than 10K residents were to be classified as “rural”. A rural local authority district is one where the majority of these residents live in rural areas.
We have to assume therefore that the survey related to a majority of Cumbrian communities. Cumbria is England’s second largest county with 51% of the total population living in rural communities, compared with 19% in England.
The results of the Survey make depressing reading with all of the Cumbrian Local Authorities featuring in the depths of the league table: Allerdale 96th, Eden 98th, South Lakeland 106th and Copeland 113th. So why is this the case?
The Cumberland News quite rightly highlights the major factors of low wages, and relatively high house prices throughout rural Cumbria in addition to a third criteria, the ratio of house prices to incomes being also a factor. It is this ratio that Cumbria fails to compete with other rural counties. East Cambridgeshire reveals average house prices relative to local earnings to be below the average for rural areas, highlighting that a high standard of living doesn’t have to come at a high price.
It is perhaps also clear that the highest ranking rural counties all benefit from excellent infrastructure with access to a wide range of employment opportunities from neighbouring conurbations. It could also be argued that a 90 minute commute to London from Ely in Cambridgeshire should compare with the average commute to the North East, Lancashire and perhaps Glasgow and Edinburgh for Cumbrian residents. It is probably more the greater availability of high net worth employment opportunities for the residents of Ely in Cambridgeshire both near and afar which has benefited this highly rural area. We can only hope that the Cumbria LEP Rural Growth Networks pilot bid and infrastructure funding from the Cumbria Infrastructure Fund go some way to improving Cumbria’s movement issues, although £4.5 million appears a drop in the ocean at present.
Other issues must also count against Cumbria in addition to earnings, transport and affordable house prices. Life expectancy and the proportion of people in good health are further criteria used and again Cumbria will have scored low in relation to the Eastern and Southern rural counties. Cumbria has fewer young people and more people aged 65 and over than the average for England. A trend projected to continue for the foreseeable future. A much larger and older population creates greater demands for personal health and social care.
It is at least heartening to see in the Cumberland News article that the issue of Superfast Broadband provision and roll out is recognised as an important step towards economic development for the county. The issue of selling more sheep to the Middle East may have been an anecdotal inclusion but surely cannot be classed as a means to improving the counties’ overall economic fortunes!
Quality of Life Rankings – Top 50 Rural Areas
1. East Cambridgeshire
2. Wychavon, West Midlands
3. South Cambridgeshire
4. East Hertfordshire
5. Waverley, South East
6. Aylesbury Vale, South East
7. Rushcliffe, East Midlands
8. Uttlesford, East of England
9. Rutland, East Midlands
10. Chiltern, South East
11. Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire
12. South Oxfordshire, South East
13. North Kesteven, East Midlands
14. Test Valley, South East
15. Mid Sussex, South East
16. Vale of White Horse, South East
17. Maldon, East of England
18. Tonbridge and Malling, South East
19. East Northamptonshire, Midlands
20. South Kesteven, East Midlands
21. Tandridge, South East
22. South Northamptonshire, Midlands
23. West Berkshire, South East
24. West Oxfordshire, South East
25. Harborough, East Midlands
26. St Edmundsbury, East of England
27. Selby, Yorkshire and the Humber
28. Forest Heath, East of England
29. Tewkesbury, South West
30. Suffolk Coastal, East of England
31. Wealden, South East
32. East Hampshire, South East
33. Melton, East Midlands
34. Forest of Dean, South West
35. South Holland, East Midlands
36. Mid Suffolk, East of England
37. East Riding of Yorkshire
38. Shepway, South East
39. Wiltshire, South West
40. Broadland, East of England
41. Shetland Islands, Scotland
42. South Derbyshire, East Midlands
43. East Dorset, South West
44. New Forest, South East
45. Babergh, East of England
46. Aberdeenshire, Scotland
47. North West Leicestershire
48. Hambleton, Yorkshire
49. South Norfolk, East of England
50. Derbyshire Dales, East Midlands
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