Recent findings on deprivation levels in England suggest that parts of London have seen improvements but the fight is far from being won.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government published its most recent statistics on levels of deprivation in England. These findings are significant as they are used to allocate government funding to social services and culture.
Headline reports suggest that the map of deprivation is shifting, with Northern and coastal towns facing increasingly widespread deprivation, whilst comparatively, London boroughs are no longer the most deprived councils in the country.
The fact that deprivation is becoming less severe is good news for some London boroughs – particularly in east London, where levels of deprivation were among the greatest in the country. In 2015, there were four London boroughs amongst the 20 most deprived English local authorities while in 2019 there is only one.
But looking beyond the headline statistic, deprivation remains a major issue for London. Half of London boroughs are still in the most deprived third of English local authorities – and this has not improved since the 2015 publication.
Deprivation affecting older people (aged 60 and over) in the capital, in particular, shows no sign of decreasing. Seven of the ten English local authorities with the highest income deprivation affecting older people are London boroughs (see the table below). Even traditionally well-to-do boroughs such as Ealing, Redbridge and Kensington and Chelsea have among the highest levels of income deprivation affecting the elderly in the country. While some Londoners reach retirement having built up great property wealth, for many others in the capital, retirement is an area of hardship.
Moreover, and perhaps counter-intuitively, the fact that that deprivation is less widespread in some boroughs does not mean that fewer residents are deprived – it could also indicate that more affluent residents have moved into these boroughs (London has gained one million residents in the last decade). It is important to note that deprivation statistics tend to highlight conditions of places over people, so an increase in wealthy residents may obscure poverty.
As Mayoral candidates draft their manifestos, these new figures show that the fight against deprivation is far from being won in London. These statistics should remind local and national policymakers that place-based measures of deprivation always gloss over the conditions of individual people and communities, and this is particularly the case in London.
Table: Income deprivation*, ranked, 2019
*proportion of residents who receive means-tested benefits, such as income support
1 = most deprived local authority
317 = least deprived local authority
|Local authority||Income deprivation rank||Local authority||Income deprivation affecting older people (60+) rank|
|Barking and Dagenham||20||Hackney||2|
|Lewisham||50||Barking and Dagenham||12|
|Greenwich||57||Hammersmith and Fulham||17|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||88||Waltham Forest||25|
|Hounslow||111||Kensington and Chelsea||42|
|Kensington and Chelsea||137||Redbridge||46|
|Merton||181||Kingston upon Thames||158|
|Kingston upon Thames||242||Bromley||208|
|City of London||280||Richmond upon Thames||228|
|Richmond upon Thames||283||City of London||262|