High levels of debt, financial insecurity and fuel poverty in England’s “left behind” neighbourhoods mean residents will be hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis, research suggests.
Areas identified as “left behind” have experienced a sharper rise in fuel poverty than other deprived areas, and are also disproportionately affected by rising energy caps, according to a new report.
The research was carried out by Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI) for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for “left behind” neighbourhoods as part of its inquiry into levelling up.
These are areas with poor physical and digital connectivity, low levels of community engagement and a lack of communal spaces, as measured by the Community Needs Index, and high levels of social and economic deprivation, measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation.
Neighbourhoods that rank in the most deprived 10% in both indexes are classed as “left behind” – 225 areas.
These are typically located in post-industrial areas in the East and West Midlands and north of England, as well as coastal areas in the South East.
The research found that, between 2011 and 2020, the proportion of households in fuel poverty in “left behind” areas rose by 8.8 percentage points.
This compares with rises of 6.6 percentage points in other deprived areas and 2.3 percentage points across England.
Some 213 of the 225 “left behind” neighbourhoods (94.5%) have higher levels of fuel poverty than the national average.
They are disproportionately affected by rising energy prices, with 142 of the 225 “left behind” wards (63.1%) in areas with a default tariff cap which is above the national average.
And more than a quarter of people living in “left behind” areas are income deprived (26.7%) – this is higher than across other deprived areas (25.9%) and England as a whole (12.9%).
Among “left behind” neighbourhoods, analysis of multiple indicators shows:
– Orchard Park and Greenwood in Hull has the highest proportion of households in fuel poverty (29.2% compared to 13.5% in England);
– Bloomfield in Blackpool has the highest score on the hardship fund vulnerability measure (331.2 compared to a score of 131.0 on average across England). It also has the highest levels of income deprivation (50.7% compared to 12.9% nationally) and the highest proportion of children living in income deprived families (63.5% compared to 17.1% across England);
– Grangetown in Redcar and Cleveland in North Yorkshire ranks highest in terms of financial vulnerability (42,554 compared to 20,347.2 on average across England); and
– Camp Hill in Nuneaton and Bedworth, just outside of Coventry, records the highest levels of personal debt at £932 per person.
APPG co-chairwoman and MP, Dame Diana Johnson, said: “This research for the APPG highlights the stark reality of the financial pressures faced by residents in ‘left behind’ areas – including areas such as Bransholme and Orchard Park in my Hull North constituency.
“With rising fuel costs, growing food poverty and worrying levels of financial insecurity, this research should be a wake-up call for the Government.
“It underlines the need for urgent action to address the cost-of-living crisis that will hit communities that have the least the hardest.
“This research shows that to genuinely ‘level up’ direct investment and funding must be targeted where it is needed most. Otherwise many of the most deprived will fall even further behind.”