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WEALTH REPORT SAYS NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE DOES NOT EXIST - AS LONDONERS JOIN SCOTS IN POVERTY

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The poorest people in Britain live in London, Scotland and Wales, according to a new report that backs up the prime...
The poorest people in Britain live in London, Scotland and Wales, according to a new report that backs up the prime minister's claim that the north-south divide does not exist, reported The Observer (p8). The study - the most in-depth look at the financial status of

British people ever undertaken - also scuppers claims by the countryside lobby that most poverty is rural. In England, at least, the areas of most desperate financial hardship are in cities.

The very poorest local authority in Britain is Tower Hamlets in east London, where 64% of residents suffer the most severe form of financial hardship, and are classified as young unemployed, indebted lone parents, transients, or subsisting pensioners. Overall, five of the 13 local authorities with the greatest poverty are in the capital, showing that though London may be booming, many Londoners are missing out on the benefits of the bouyant economy.

The report - to be published today by the financial informtion company Experian - reveals the financial status of residents of all 413 local authorities in Britain, classifying them into seven different categories. It has been compiled from the data of almost every

household in the country which is now held by credit reference agencies and market research companies.

Many Scottish local authorities also suffer high levels of poverty. More than half the population are in financial distress in Glasgow City, West Dunbartosnhire, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire and Dundee City. In parts of Wales, such as Gwent, more than half the

population is also suffering the highest degree of financial hardship.

However, the report reveals there is comparatively less poverty in the north east of England, even though it is often portrayed as the most hard-up in Britain: South Tyneside is only the 14th most impoverished local authority in Britain.

The one sterotype confirmed is the affluence of the stockbroker-belt around London, and the almost complete lack of poverty in the rural home counties. South Buckinghamshire is the local authority with the greatest number of residents who fall into the top financial

category, with 21% classified as millionaires, investors or higher rate taxpayers. Surrey is also prosperous, containing six of the top 10 most prosperous local authorities in the country. There are pockets of wealth further north, with Macclesfield, Solihull and Rushcliffe

all having a high proportion of residents fitting into the top financial category.

The study - entitled A Divided Britain? - backs up the prime minister's contention that 'poverty and prosperity are neighbours in every part of Britain'. It shows that most local authorities, but particularly those in London and Scotland, are extremely polarised. The most polarised is Aberdeen, with 33% living in poverty and 5% living in the top financial bracket. Edinburgh and Stirling in Scotland, and Camden, Haringey and Westminster in London are also starkly divided between haves and have-nots. The City of Londonalso has a high level of poverty among those who actually live there, with the big salaries going to those who commute into it. And the prime minister's old local authority of Islington has one of the highest proportions of people living in poverty in the country.

The poorest: Tower Hamlets; Glasgow City; West Dumbartonshire; Southwark; Inverclyde; North Lanarkshire; Easington, County Durham; Blaenau Gwent; Sandwell; Barking and Dagenham; Dundee City; Hackney; Newham; South Tyneside; and Knowsley.

The richest: South Buckinghamshire; Elmbridge; Waverley; Chiltern; Mole Valley; Surrey Heath; Tanbridge; Guildford; Hart; Richmond-upon- Thames; Sevenoaks; Windsor and Maidenhead; Reigate and Banstead; Barnet; and Epsom and Ewell.

Arundel, the town beneath the castle in West Sussex, is the healthiest in the land, according to new research, reported The Sunday Times (p7). Residents have a better chance than other Britons of avoiding premature death, reflecting a growing health divide between north

and south. Glasgow and Manchester have two of the worst rates.

'The simple fact is that if you are an adult and living in Shuttleston (a district of Glasgow), you are three times more likely to die tomorrow than if you live in Arundel', said Professor

Danny Dorling, a member of the Bristol University team that conducted the research.

Margaret Murphy, of Arundel's information centre, pointed out that nearby Bognor Regis and the surrounding area gets the largest amount of sunshine in Britain. Others believe the town's health is more to do with the£500,000 cost of houses in the town centre, illustrating

the area's affluence.

Britain's healthiest constituencies: Arundel; Oxford west and Abingdon; Hertford and Stortford; Woodspring; and Wokingham.

Unhealthiest constituencies: Glasgow, the Glasgow constituencies of Shettleston, Springburn, Maryhill, Kelvin, Pollock, Govan and Baillieston have the lowest life expectancies in Britain; Manchester Central; Greenock and Inverclyde; Manchester Blackley; and Liverpool Riverside.

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