Leaders: No room for complacency over deprivation

Ferguslie Park in Paisley one of the most deprived areas in Scotland
Ferguslie Park in Paisley one of the most deprived areas in Scotland
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POVERTY is not the same as deprivation. It is merely one indicator among several which, when combined, show whether people are suffering deprivation.

The good news from the Scottish Government’s latest survey of deprivation is that some of the areas of Scotland that were most deprived now seem to be less so. The bad news is that deprivation is spreading.

This is a very cautious reading of the latest Scottish index of multiple deprivation, published yesterday by the Scottish Government’s chief statistician. The index combines measurements of employment, income, health, education, access to services, crime and housing in 6,505 small neighbourhoods to come up with an overall figure, which perhaps can be described as assessing the wellbeing of the people living there.

But because the figures are all relative and not set against an absolute measure of what constitutes deprivation, there is no way of knowing from the published data whether overall levels of deprivation have risen or fallen since this data was first compiled in 2004. And without doing some complex analysis, it is not immediately clear whether an apparent reduction in deprivation in one area is entirely real in terms of the absolute living conditions of the people in that area.

It seems fair to think that the 2008-9 recession, which has caused a general rise in unemployment and a reduction in real wages, and which has been followed by cutbacks in public services, will mean that general levels of deprivation have worsened in recent years.

If so, it is interesting that Glasgow, which had nearly two-fifths of the 15 per cent most-deprived neighbourhoods in 2004, now has less than a third, with this improvement having been maintained since the grim year of 2009.

It suggests the measures to combat deprivation that have been deployed in the city seem to be working to some extent.

The same appears to be true of South Lanarkshire, but not of North Lanarkshire, where there has been a rapid increase in the number of most-deprived neighbourhoods since 2009, taking the area back to where it was in 2004. Dundee has steadily worsened since 2004, with more areas in the 15 per cent most-deprived category every time the survey has been conducted.

The general impression is that, whereas deprivation used to be heavily concentrated in Glasgow, Inverclyde and Lanarkshire, it is now spread more evenly across Scotland. Efforts by local and central government to combat deprivation must not slacken.

If it is true that some areas have shown significant improvement, then the lessons of why that is so should be learned and applied elsewhere. Aspects of deprivation, such as crime, ill-health and poor education corrode communities and accelerate decline. Downward spirals of despair must be converted into upward curves of hope and achievement.

Taxing tale as Hailey’s Comet burns out

Comet is a sad story of a retailer that rose from its origins nearly a century ago to shine brightly with more than 200 stores, only to fall back to earth now in one of the

biggest high street failures since the collapse of Woolworths, causing misery for its nearly 7,000 employees. And there is the question of a lot of missing money, not the least of which concerns the

£50 million bill for unpaid tax

and redundancy payments that the taxpayer will have to shoulder.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has asked the Insolvency Service to find out what has gone wrong. The problems of Comet – facing withering competition from online retailers and recession-induced shrinkage of its main market of new home-buyers – were well known to those on board the investment vehicle, Hailey Investments, which was put together by OpCapita, an investment partnership.

Hailey acquired the business for just £2 and was given a £50m dowry only a year ago. And yet Deloitte, the administrators who were trying to salvage something, now report that a total of £311m is owed. Hailey appears to be

the only secured creditor likely to get anything, perhaps as much

as £50m.

Whether this is more or less than what it has put into the firm is not known. But the suspicion is that Hailey may walk away at worst merely singed, while suppliers and the taxpayer are severely burned. If this does turn out to be the case, the public’s deep suspicion that slick investment folk always clean up while everybody else loses their shirts will be reinforced. Businesses complain they are over-burdened with red tape. Episodes like this show why it is needed.