Do the latest deprivation figures show poorer Londoners being pushed to the suburbs?

Changing deprivation in the north London borough of Islington. Image: Alasdair Rae.

With its long history of feudal oppression, industrial workhouses and dire slums, England is no stranger to deprivation. Even today, we’re all too familiar with phenomena like “beds in sheds”, soaring food bank use and fuel poverty. So it’s hardly surprising that, whenever a new deprivation dataset is released, we tend to focus our attention on the “most deprived” places across England.

While these areas warrant urgent attention, there are also many other significant stories to be told – so, when the government released the latest Indices of Deprivation for England, I delved into the data through mapping and analysis to see what I could uncover.


But before I share my findings, it will be helpful to explain what deprivation actually is. Deprivation is measured based on a mix of indicators relating to income, jobs, education, health, crime, housing and environment. It’s a broader measure than poverty – which tends to focus on income – but there is significant overlap between the two.

By combining deprivation data from 2010 and 2015 with freely available map data, I produced deprivation maps for all 326 of England’s local authorities – all of which are available for download and re-use on my website. The overall message is clear: not much has changed.

Deprivation in Middlesbrough, 2015. Image: Alasdair Rae.

For example, 49 per cent of Middlesbrough’s neighbourhoods remain within the most deprived 10 per cent in England, compared to 47 per cent in 2010. It’s a similar story in Hull, where 45 per cent were in England’s most deprived decile in 2015, compared to 43 per cent in 2010.

Unlike poverty, deprivation is a relative measure, which means that we can also locate England’s “least deprived” areas – such as Hart, in Hampshire. Yet the patterns in these areas have also proved to be very persistent: not much has changed at either end of the deprivation spectrum.

Deprivation in Hart, Hampshire, 2015. Image: Alasdair Rae.

Of course, this persistence shouldn’t surprise us. We’re only talking about a five-year period – and even the most optimistic policymaker wouldn’t expect much to change in half a decade. In fact, they probably wouldn’t expect to see much change over a whole decade, so entrenched are patterns of deprivation and so humble the impacts of urban policy.

A special case

But there is one major exception to this rule: London. If we map out the data from the 2004 Indices of Deprivation, and compare them to the most recent results, we see some striking changes.

I looked at areas in London which were within England’s most deprived decile in both 2004 and 2015 – they appear in red on the maps below. In 2004, London had 462 of England’s 10 per cent most deprived areas. By 2015, this figure had shrunk to 274.

The disappearance of acute deprivation in Tower Hamlets? Image: Alasdair Rae.

The disappearance of many of the red areas since 2004 helps document the apparent dispersal of London’s poorest residents over little more than a decade.

These changes are most obvious in areas at the forefront of gentrification struggles, such as Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham and Camden. You can see the results of this analysis for every London Borough here.

Hold on a minute though. Shouldn’t we be applauding the elimination of London’s most deprived areas? If these changes were due to individuals escaping deprivation and poverty, then the answer would be “yes”. But I don’t believe this is the case.

Given the influx of new residents in these areas, it’s more likely to be a result of changing local populations, particularly in east London where the process of gentrification is well documented. As recent events like the Cereal Killer Cafe protests have shown, this inevitably results in conflict and resentment at a local level.

 

Are Hackney's poorer residents now better off? Image: Alasdair Rae.

At the same time, we are also seeing increases in the number of deprived neighbourhoods in some Outer London Boroughs, such as Bromley. The two phenomena may not be directly related, but I wouldn’t rule it out. It could well be that, as wealthier residents move into the more central boroughs, poorer Londoners are being pushed toward the city’s more affordable outskirts.

An increase in acute deprivation in outer London? Image: Alasdair Rae.

If we’re serious about tackling acute deprivation in our society, then we should shift our focus beyond deprivation and towards inequality itself. Thankfully, the realisation is gradually dawning that addressing inequalities on a national level should be a matter of priority. The OECD has argued that when inequality rises, economic growth falls – and that we should all be more concerned with how those on the bottom 40 per cent of incomes in society fare.


Yet this message has to date had little impact upon government policies around the globe. To address the kinds of inequalities seen in England, there first needs to be a realisation that the impacts of austerity policies tend to be very spatially uneven and often serve to intensify levels of deprivation at the local level. This message isn’t currently a popular one, but I think it needs urgent attention.The Conversation

Alasdair Rae is a senior lecturer in urban studies and planning at the University of Sheffield.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

London Overground is experimenting with telling passengers which bits of the next train is busiest

There must be a better way than this: Tokyo during a 1972 rail strike. Image: Getty.

One of the most fun things to do, for those who enjoy claustrophobia and other people’s body odour, is to attempt to use a mass transit system at rush hour.

Travelling on the Central line at 6pm, for example, gives you all sorts of exciting opportunities to share a single square inch of floor space with a fellow passenger, all the while becoming intimately familiar with any personal hygiene problems they may happen to have. On some, particularly lovely days you might find you don’t even get to do this for ages, but first have to spend some exciting time enjoying it as a spectator sport, before actually being able to pack yourself into one unoccupied cranny of a train.

But fear not! Transport for London has come up with a plan: telling passengers which bits of the train have the most space on them.

Here’s the science part. Many trains include automatic train weighing systems, which do exactly what the name suggests: monitoring the downward force on any individual wheel axis in real time. The data thus gathered is used mostly to optimise the braking.

But it also serves as a good proxy for how crowded a particular carriage is. All TfL are doing here is translating that into real time information visible to passengers. It’s using the standard, traffic light colour system: green means go, yellow means “hmm, maybe not”, red means “oh dear god, no, no, no”. 

All this will, hopefully, encourage some to move down the platform to where the train is less crowded, spreading the load and reducing the number of passengers who find themselves becoming overly familiar with a total stranger’s armpit.

The system is not unique, even in London: trains on the Thameslink route, a heavy-rail line which runs north/south across town (past CityMetric towers!) has a similar system visible to passengers on board. And so far it’s only a trial, at a single station, Shoreditch High Street.

But you can, if you’re so minded, watch the information update every few seconds or so here.

Can’t see why you would, but I can’t see why I would either, and that hasn’t stopped me spending much of the day watching it, so, knock yourselves out.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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