In Brief

Britain is a ‘social mobility postcode lottery’, report says

Social Mobility Commission’s annual report reveals widening divide in life prospects

The impact of Britain’s widening geographical inequality on people’s life prospects has been revealed in the Social Mobility Commission’s annual State of the Nation report.

 Ranking all 324 local authorities in England in terms of the life chances of someone born into a disadvantaged background, the report “debunks the assumption that a simple north/south divide exists”, says Sky News, “instead suggesting there are hotspots and coldspots found in almost every part of the country”.

The report shows social mobility is a ‘postcode lottery’ that often bears no relation to whether the area is rich or poor.

The index finds that the worst-performing regions for social mobility are no longer inner city areas, but remote rural or coastal areas and former industrial areas, such as the West Midlands, that are being left behind economically and hollowed out socially.

In areas such as these, “youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds face lower rates of pay, fewer top jobs and travel-to-work times nearly four times those of urban residents”, reports The Independent.

London by contrast, is the most successful place in the country for putting disadvantaged children onto the road to success, leading it to be described as a “different country” from the rest of the UK by the report’s authors.

HuffPost highlights the number and quality of teachers available as “a critical factor in the performance of the best areas”.

It notes that London has gone from having the worst schools in England to having the best, thanks to links between schools and more fast-tracked teachers who are more likely to stay longer in their jobs. In contrast, a secondary teacher in the most deprived areas is 70% more likely to leave.

Alan Milburn, the commission chair and former Labour health secretary, warned that there could be a rise in extremism unless the social divisions outlined in the report were tackled.

Speaking to journalists he said: “These are volatile and uncertain times. Right now Britain seems to be in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division. The growing sense that we have become an us and them society is deeply corrosive of our cohesion as a nation.”

While Milburn acknowledged that “political alienation and social resentment” felt by the so-called ‘left behind’ had fuelled anger at globalisation and led, in part, to the Brexit vote, he said leaving the EU would not solve these grievances and could in fact make them worse.

Instead, Milburn called on the government to increase the proportion of spending on those parts of the country that most need it, amid claims that the north is underfunded by £6bn a year compared to London.

Writing in The Guardian Milburn argued that: “Overcoming the divisions that exist in Britain requires far more ambition and far bigger scale. A less divided Britain will require a more redistributive approach to spreading education, employment and housing prospects across our country.”

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