New atlas shows austerity hitting the poor rather than the rich

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have created a unique atlas which is an authoritative record of the changing social geography of Britain.

Bankrupt Britain: an atlas of social change, published by The Policy Press, shows, for the first time, how economic and social fortunes have been affected in different areas in the wake of the 2007 banking crisis, 2008 economic crash, 2009 credit crunch and 2010 cuts.
Due to the effects of government cuts on data collection and dissemination, much of this information will not be collected in future, making this information one of a kind.

The atlas reveals the extent of Britain's bankruptcy in financial, residential, political, moral, emotional and environmental aspects of life across Britain and highlights the way this has impacted more on the poor and vulnerable in society with the rich continuing to fare better.

The atlas also highlights that views on the extent to which Britain is morally and/or economically bankrupt vary geographically: for example Londoners are three times more inclined than the residents of the industrial Midlands to believe that 'the economy is on the mend.'

The research that some areas have been harder hit than others and the following findings have been revealed in the atlas:

• If the proposed 25 per cent cut in public sector employment comes to pass, and there is little compensatory private sector job creation, we could be looking at unemployment rates of as high as 25 per cent in some areas.

• In 2009, in over 100 local authorities in England, there were more households on the housing waiting list than there was council housing stock.

• The highest proportion of the electorate who voted for their MP in the 2010 general election was 46 per cent (in Westmorland and Lonsdale), while the lowest was 18 per cent (in Great Grimsby).

• The wealthiest 42 local authorities in Britain have only eight per cent of deaths but account for 24 per cent of estates liable for inheritance tax. In contrast, in 80 authorities, almost no one is rich enough to be liable.

• Nowhere did more than 37 per cent of the adult population engage in regular volunteering in 2008, with rates in some areas as low as 14 per cent – not a promising start for the 'Big Society'. National rates have been falling since then.

• Household recycling rates in 2008/09 ranged from 15 per cent (in Newham) to 62 per cent (in Staffordshire Moorlands); in some areas recycling rates actually fell compared with the previous year.

Including best and worst tables for the topics mapped, the atlas provides a myriad of illuminating insights into the changing social geography of Britain in recent years.

Co-author of the atlas, Professor Danny Dorling, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Geography, said: "The atlas demonstrates that, in too many ways, social trends across the country continue in the wrong direction. In the wealthiest parts of London and the South East, people continue to be extremely well paid, are becoming wealthier more rapidly, and still often have a lifestyle of hyper-consumption. In much of the rest of the country, and especially for poorer groups, austerity has set in and living standards have fallen over the last five years."

Co-author of the atlas, Dr Bethan Thomas, also from the University's Department of Geography, added: "Despite many people's fears of a bankrupt – or broken – Britain, this remains one of the richest countries on earth, but the rich have not taken their fair share of austerity."

Notes for Editors: Bankrupt Britain: An atlas of social change by Daniel Dorling and Bethan Thomas is published by The Policy Press on 23 May 2011 price £29.99 (ISBN 978184742 747 2). It is available to buy from the link below at 20 per cent discount, or from Marston Book Services, P.O. Box 269, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4YN. Tel: 01235 465500 plus £2.75 postage and packing.

Dr Bethan Thomas is a Research Fellow at the Department of Geography, University of Sheffield and co-author of Identity in Britain: A cradle-to-grave atlas also published by The Policy Press. She is currently working on homeless mortality in Britain.

Professor Daniel Dorling is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sheffield. He has published several atlases and books on the population of Britain, including Injustice: Why social inequalities persist, So you think you know about Britain and The Grim Reaper's road map. Follow news about Danny Dorling on Twitter: @dannydorling.

The report examines six themes, illustrated with over 90 full colour maps. A large number of data sources were employed to describe the various aspects of these six themes.

The themes are:
• Financially bankrupt
• Residentially bankrupt
• Politically bankrupt
• Morally bankrupt
• Emotionally bankrupt
• Environmentally bankrupt

For further information please contact: Shemina Davis, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2225339 or email shemina.davis@sheffield.ac.uk