North Ayrshire is officially the worst place to live in the UK, according to a new ‘Quality of Life Index’ from comparison website, uswitch.com.
The study looked at 138 local areas on 24 different factors including life expectancy, salaries, disposable income, exam results and even sunshine hours.
The local area came 138th, along with East Ayrshire due to poor exam results, low income and low life expectancy, amongst other things.
An average salary of just £24,242, disposable income of £14,430 a year, which is 17% less than Solihull, the best placed area on the list, and low life expectancy means this area is bottom of the list. Some of the issues highlighted, including hours of sunshine, may be a bit off-beat and unfair on the residents though as they certainly can’t control the weather and their position in the world means that England will get more sunshine than most Scottish regions.
Michael Ossei, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to fixing the problems in our country, but there’s a lot that consumers can do to help themselves. By taking a hard look at our household budgets and cutting the cost of essential bills, we can influence our standard of living and improve our overall quality of life.” North Ayrshire Council Leader Willie Gibson has thrown down the gauntlet to the producers of this survey and urged them to come and see the place for themselves. He said: “This is yet another survey that is of little value to anyone, anywhere. It joins the long list of worthless reports which appear to have been produced to gain nothing more than publicity for the publishers or the sponsors.
“This so-called survey reminds me of the old saying ‘There are three kinds of falsehoods: lies, damned lies, and statistics’.” The Council Leader described the U-Switch report as a collection of meaningless and inaccurate statistics that are presented in a skewed fashion to somehow rate one place better than the next.
He added: “The result is that North Ayrshire has been placed in the bottom section of a cobbled together ‘quality of life’ league table alongside all the other Scottish regions. This nonsense is hurtful and offensive to the good people of this area.
“While I recognise that parts of North Ayrshire face significant economic challenges I am of the firm opinion that local residents would not accept this report as a fair and accurate portrayal of their community.” He also questioned the methodology used in deciding which areas are good and which are bad, dismissing North Ayrshire’s returns on the basis that these can be viewed either negatively or positively, depending on which comparisons are used.
Willie went on: “Accuracy was clearly not a requirement when the information was compiled. For example, according to the researchers’ findings, the amount of sunshine we receive is exactly the same for every single place in Scotland.
The Leader also took a swipe at the authors of the report for their assertion that exam results in North Ayrshire were poor.
Over the last five years, there have been marked improvements across the area’s nine secondary schools, a performance that has been recognised nationally.
He added: “For example, S4 levels have greatly improved since 2009 with the number of pupils achieving this grade in English and Maths increasing from 95% to 99%. This is a fabulous performance.
“The whole survey, from start to finish, presents a distorted picture of life in North Ayrshire. It isn’t anywhere as unpleasant as the study implies. For instance the average weekly rent paid in North Ayrshire is listed as £44, way below the rates of £60 plus and £70 plus in most of the other parts of Scotland.” “Another example is shown on the table of figures for gross weekly income. Here the average level of earnings is £466, which is more than the comparable figure for many affluent areas like Inverness, Nairn, Clackmannan, Fife and the Scottish Borders.
“I accept that our employment rate at 64 per cent is lower than that of many regions in the survey but I have to say that no other area will have put in more work to redress this than we in North Ayrshire. Despite the jobs figure we are far from being bottom of the league. “I am afraid that U-Switch has wasted time, effort and money by gathering up up bits and pieces of information for a report that that doesn’t make much sense.” Looking at the list of positions, it is clear that this list has been slightly unfair on the Scottish regions with the majority of the bottom ten being Scottish. One of the factors considered was broadband speeds and to include a rural area in that is always going to be difficult for them to come anywhere near the top, especially when they are up against cities.
With Councillor Gibson clearly stating his feelings on the survey and what it really means in terms of North Ayrshire and the quality of life, do you agree with him or do you side with those who made the assessment?
For the full story see this week's Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald.