Examination of Witness

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:47 am on 21st June 2022.

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Mairi Spowage:

It is always difficult to come up with a set of metrics that everybody is going to agree with. One of the most challenging things, particularly if you compile them in an index, is how you weight them together, which things you give most prominence to, because if you are weighting metrics that are more focused on, perhaps, income deprivation and you are focusing less on rurality, you will get quite a different allocation of resources from the one that you will get if you are giving more weight to lack of connectivity, or rurality, than income deprivation. That is just one example. Most of the indices of multiple deprivation have income and employment, education, health, crime, and access to services, as well as housing. The weights that you give to these things can be contentious and, depending on the weight that you give to things, there can be quite a different outcome in your allocation.

It is obviously possible to come up with a consensus on things like the indices of multiple deprivation. The different nations show that you can come up with something that broadly everybody agrees is sensible, but even with the indices of multiple deprivation, which are well established, policy makers in rural areas would say that they do not capture rural disadvantage very well at all, because the geographic areas that tend to be used for rural areas are very large and do not capture pockets of deprivation within rural areas. Even with those established metrics, people in rural areas have argued for many years that they do not serve them well. I think it is difficult to get a consensus, but there is a good basis to start from, in terms of the long-established 20 or 30-year discussions about indices of multiple deprivation and how to measure that across the UK.