Survey Says Scilly Has Lowest Poverty In England

Scilly has the lowest level of poverty in England according to the credit company Experian.

They place Scilly at the bottom of the list of 326 local authority areas.

This comes despite news that Scilly and Cornwall are still below the 75% average EU income level and will continue to receive the highest level of EU ‘Convergence’ funding.

Sean Parsons from the Council’s Economic Development Team says the Experian survey contradicts many recent and well-respected data sets including those from the Government, which show Scilly is more deprived.

The Department for Communities and Local Government ranks Scilly in the bottom half of areas for deprivation.

Sean says it’s difficult to see exactly what data have led Experian to their ranking.

Experian have used a number of factors to rate local authority’s level of poverty including the likelihood that their area contains households whose incomes are less than 60% of the median for England, the presence of households at risk of long term unemployment and levels of the industrial disease, bronchitis.

But Sean thinks that Experian may have been very selective in their use of data. He says an unintended consequence of choosing data sets is that you only see part of the picture.

An example of this is that the unemployment figures for the islands are low but it is fairly common on Scilly that people take on more than one job. If you take the first element of this in isolation it would suggest that Scilly is a good place to go to if you were looking for employment but the second part suggests that people may need to take on additional work outside of their first job to make ends meet.

The average hours information from the 2001 census shows that a greater proportion of people work longer weekly hours on Scilly than in the South West or England as whole.

Sean says another example is the household income statistic, which Experian uses to suggest that the islands are at low risk of poverty.

Levels of income are significant in estimating wealth and poverty but they need to be read alongside other factors to give them meaning. In the islands case this is the very high cost associated with housing, travel, food and fuel.

Local studies put food costs up to 30% higher than in Penzance and petrol was 35p per litre more.  Housing is also more expensive here, which will eat into people’s ‘real’ spending power.

While it can be hard to make sense of these conflicting surveys, it only goes to reinforce Mark Twain’s famous observation. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”


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