The New Britain Project, which describes itself as “an independent progressive think tank focused on bridging the gap between politics, policy and practice”, has developed a Broken Britain Index , which they published on 12 December, the fourth anniversary of the 2019 General Election.
The index attempts to assess the state of our public services across England. It uses 18 critical indicators in areas such as policing, transport, education, health and local infrastructure. Using these, the project has been able to paint a picture of how broken Britain really is … and where the most broken parts are.
There is an overall Broken Britain ranking, while the index is also divided into three subgroups:
- “Forgotten generation” (including data around GCSE attainment and teacher turnover rates)
- “Healthcare emergency” (including areas such as how easy it is to access a GP, NHS waiting lists, A&E waiting times)
- “Crumbling communities” (accounting for the condition of roads, how severe crime is and food insecurity)
The worst hit areas
It is notable that the most badly affected areas of Britain, by decline in public services over the last 13 years, have been mostly those that came to be known as ‘Red Wall’ areas, those that traditionally return Labour MPs, but voted Tory in 2019, having voted for Brexit three years earlier.
While the worst hit area is Nottingham, which returned two Labour MPs in 2019, another six of the 20 worst affected areas are also in the East Midlands, in areas with Tory MPs. Many of the other worst hit areas are similarly in areas, which returned Tory MPs in 2019 after the promises of Levelling Up from Johnson. Promises which of course, have been utterly broken. Indeed, Anna McShane, director of the New Britain Project, was quoted in The New Statesman as saying: “The Broken Britain index reveals a shocking betrayal of the government’s promises to ‘level up’,”
The north/south divide
Unsurprisingly, the index shows a huge divide between the South East and the rest of England. There are a few more badly hit areas in the area around London, such as Epping Forest, Portsmouth and Brighton and Hove. Similarly, there are areas in the North, which have come off lightly from the effects of grinding Conservative austerity, including Hambleton in Yorkshire, Cheshire East in the North West and Northumberland in our own North East region.
That said the divide between the South East and areas further north and west is stark. London is seen as the least broken region, particularly in the areas of Broken Britain as a whole and what the authors call the ‘forgotten generation’. The worst hit region overall is the West Midlands.
How does the North East fare?
The answer to this question is, in a word, badly. Indeed, our region is the most badly hit region in the index, in the whole country in two of the three subgroups; those of forgotten generation and crumbing communities. This confirms what many have thought for a long time; that our region has been hammered by austerity and that this is having a hugely detrimental effect on our quality of life. Our infrastructure is crumbling, while our children’s progress in life is being held back.
Perhaps surprisingly, we came top in the health sub-group, without which, we would be the worst hit region overall. Despite this positive story, in the area of health, the index makes grim reading for our region and its people.
As Anna McShane put it in the New Statesman: “This isn’t just data, it’s a story of communities and regions grappling with the decline in essential services – a narrative that’s become all too familiar across the country.”