These maps show deprivation in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and other large English cities

Derelict houses in the Toxteth district of inner city Liverpool. Image: Getty.

This is the latest in a series of blogs exploring the 2015 English Indices of Deprivation. This time we’re focusing on the rural-urban divide in the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and on the performance of England’s largest cities.

Before we get to the maps, though (yes, there are maps), some explanatory notes.

First, most people in England live in urban areas, and the areas we analyse (Lower Super Output Areas, or LSOAs) are designed to be as consistent as possible in terms of number of people that live within their boundaries. So by definition, most of the areas we focus on are urban. (This does not imply that England is mostly urban and built-up: it is not.)

Second, urban areas tend to rank as more deprived than rural ones. It is possible to calculate this by ordering LSOAs by most to least deprived, and then dividing them into ten equal groups (deciles). Doing so reveals that over a third of urban LSOAs are among England’s 30 per cent most deprived, while only 7 per cent of rural LSOAs are.

This trend is clearly visible here:

Above: Number of Lower Super Output Areas by rural/urban classification. Below: Proportion of each classification in each decile of multiple deprivation. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.

The fact that rural areas rank as less deprived does not mean that they are also wealthier. The Index is designed using indicators that only measure individuals’ deprivation (that is, what they lack), not their affluence (how much money they have). Therefore, it does not rank places from poorest to richest, but rather from highest concentration of deprived people to lowest.

Interestingly, the distribution of LSOAs across the deciles of deprivation is broadly consistent in urban areas – but it is visibly skewed in rural areas. This clearly shows that relatively wealthier city councils must bear a heavier burden in overcoming deprivation than their rural counterparts.

So what does this mean for the core cities?

England’s “core cities” are the eight largest cities outside London: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham and Sheffield. To show how deprivation in these cities changed between 2010 and 2015, we have used the same methodology that we had already used in this post, and then charted it and mapped it.

Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham are all among the 20 most deprived local authorities in England – but since 2010 their relative performance since 2010 has varied considerably. As shown below, Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne have seen over 60 per cent of their LSOAs experience a positive shift in the Index (that is, become relatively less deprived). Conversely, the shift in Nottingham and Bristol has been mostly negative.

The direction of shift in LSOAs’ deprivation score in the Core Cities. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.

In spatial terms, one common trend is higher levels of deprivation immediately surrounding city centres (you can see this on the left hand maps in the images below). Since 2010, though, no clear spatial pattern has emerged in the way deprivation has shifted. (Note: For clarity and consistency, we’ve focused solely on each Core City’s main local authority, and not on the surrounding authorities that are part of the same urban area.)

Without further ado, here are the maps

Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Birmingham. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.


Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Bristol. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.


Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Leeds. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.


Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Liverpool. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.


Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Manchester. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.


Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Newcastle upon Tyne. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.


Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Nottingham. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.

Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Sheffield. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.

The IMD is a useful geographical tool – but it would be unwise to use it to assess the actual improvement or deterioration in life standards at individual or household level.

Think of the complexity in this way. A negative shift does not imply that an area has not improved its deprivation score: it could be that it has done so at a slower pace than the English average. On the other hand, there is no indication that an area is becoming less deprived because people are actually better off than they were. It may be because the poorest households are being pushed out.

Nonetheless, the Index is one of the many tools (like the recently updated Travel to Work Areas) that can help us explore the social and economic dynamics of cities. Devolving decision-making will bring no progress unless we understand the places we want to devolve to.

Francesco Mellino is a research consultant at Nathanial Lichfield & Partners.

This article was originally posted on the planning consultancy's blog.


Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.

So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image:

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?

And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.