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.

 
 
 
 

A nation that doesn’t officially exist: on Somaliland’s campaign to build a national library in Hargeisa

The Somaliland National Library, Hargeisa. Image: Ahmed Elmi.

For seven years now, there’s been a fundraising campaign underway to build a new national library in a nation that doesn’t officially exist. 

Since 2010, the Somali diaspora have been sending money, to pay for construction of the new building in the capital, Hargeisa. In a video promoting the project, the British journalist Rageeh Omar, who was born in Mogadishu to a Hargeisa family, said it would be... 

“...one of the most important institutions and reference points for all Somalilanders. I hope it sets a benchmark in terms of when a country decides to do something for itself, for the greater good, for learning and for progress – that anything can be achieved.”

Now the first storey of the Somaliland National Library is largely complete. The next step is to fill it with books. The diaspora has been sending those, too.

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Some background is necessary here to explain the “country that doesn’t exist” part. During the Scramble for Africa of the 1880s, at the height of European imperialism, several different empires established protectorates in the Somali territories on the Horn of Africa. In 1883, the French took the port of Djibouti; the following year, the British grabbed the north coast, which looks out onto the Gulf of Aden. Five years after that, the Italians took the east coast, which faces the Indian Ocean.

And, excepting some uproar during World War II, so things remained for the next 70 years or so.

The Somali territories in 1890. Image: Ingoman/Wikimedia Commons.

When the winds of change arrived in 1960, the British and Italian portions agreed to unite as the Somali Republic: a hair-pin shaped territory, hugging the coast and surrounding Ethiopia on two sides. But British Somaliland gained its independence first: for just five days, at the end of June 1960, it was effectively an independent country. This will become important later.

(In case you are wondering what happened to the French bit, it voted to remain with France in a distinctly dodgy referendum. It later became independent as Djibouti in 1977.)

The new country, informally known as Somalia, had a difficult history: nine years of democracy ended in a coup, and were followed by the 22 year military dictatorship under the presidency of General Siad Barre. In 1991, under pressure from rebel groups including the Hargeisa-based Somali National Movement (SNM), Barre fled, and his government finally collapsed. So, in effect, did the country.

For one thing, it split in two, along the old colonial boundaries: the local authorities in the British portion, backed by the SNM, made a unilateral declaration of independence. In the formerly Italian south, though, things collapsed in a rather more literal sense: the territory centred on Mogadishu was devastated by the Somali civil war, which has killed around 500,000, displaced more than twice that, and is still officially going on.

Somalia (blue) and Somaliland (yellow) in 2016. Image: Nicolay Sidorov/Wikimedia Commons.

The north, meanwhile, got off relatively lightly: today it’s the democratic and moderately prosperous Republic of Somaliland. It claims to be the successor to the independent state of Somaliland, which existed for those five days in June 1960.

This hasn’t persuaded anybody, though, and today it’s the only de facto sovereign state that has never been recognised by a single UN member. Reading about it, one gets the distinct sense that this is because it’s basically doing okay, so its lack of diplomatic recognition has never risen up anyone’s priority list.

Neither has its library.

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Rageeh Omar described the site of the new library in his fundraising video. It occupies 6,000m2 in the middle of Hargeisa, two minutes from the city’s main hospital, 10 from the presidential palace. In one sequence he stands on the half-completed building’s roof and points out the neighbours: the city’s main high street, with the country’s largest shopping mall; the Ministry of Telecoms that lies right next door.

This spiel, in a video produced by the project’s promoters, suggests something about the new library: that part of its job is to be another in this list of landmarks, more evidence that Hargeisa, a city of 1.5m, should be recognised as the proper capital of a real country.

But it isn’t just that: the description of the library’s function, in the government’s Strategic Plan 2013-2023, makes clear it’s also meant to be a real educational facility. NGOS, the report notes, have focused their resources on primary schools first, secondary schools second and other educational facilities not at all. (This makes sense, given that they want most bang for their buck.)

And so, the new building will provide “the normal functions of public library, but also... additional services that are intentionally aimed at solving the unique education problems of a post conflict society”. It’ll provide books for a network of library trucks, providing “book services” to the regions outside Hargeisa, and a “book dispersal and exchange system”, to provide books for schools and other educational facilities. There’ll even be a “Camel Library Caravan that will specifically aim at accessing the nomadic pastoralists in remote areas”.

All this, it’s hoped, will raise literacy levels, in English as well as the local languages of Arabic and Somali, and so boost the economy too.

As described. Image courtesy of Nimko Ali.

Ahmed Elmi, the London-based Somali who’s founder and director of the library campaign, says that the Somaliland government has invested $192,000 in the library. A further $97,000 came from individual and business donors in both Hargeisa and in the disaspora. “We had higher ambitions,” Elmi tells me, “but we had to humble our approach, since the last three years the country has been suffering from a large drought.”

Now the scheme is moving to its second phase: books, computers and printers, plus landscaping the gardens. This will cost another $175,000. “We are also open to donations of books, furniture and technology,” Emli says. “Or even someone with technical expertise who can help up set-up the librarian system instead of a contemporary donation of a cash sum.” The Czech government, in fact, has helped with the latter: it’s not offered financial support, but has offered to spend four weeks training two librarians.  

Inside the library.

On internet forums frequented by the Somali diaspora, a number of people have left comments about the best way to do this. One said he’d “donated all my old science and maths schoolbooks last year”. And then there’s this:

“At least 16 thousand landers get back to home every year, if everyone bring one book our children will have plenty of books to read. But we should make sure to not bring useless books such celebrity biography books or romantic novels. the kids should have plenty of science,maths and vocational books.”

Which is good advice for all of us, really.


Perhaps the pithiest description of the project comes from its Facebook page: “Africa always suffers food shortage, diseases, civil wars, corruption etc. – but the Somaliland people need a modern library to build a better place for the generations to come.”

The building doesn’t look like much: a squat concrete block, one storey-high. But there’s something about the idea of a country coming together like this to build something that’s rather moving. Books are better than sovereignty anyway.

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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