Doubt thrown on thesis of polarised UK

The Institute of British Geographers' annual conference

The image of Britain as an increasingly polarised society in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer may be flawed and out of date, a researcher said yesterday.

Daniel Dorling, of Newcastle University, told the Institute of British Geographers' annual conference that the nation may now be on its way to greater equality in some respects.

Dr Dorling, a geographer who has researched negative equity and the 1991 census results, questioned the heavy emphasis placed on inequality by Labour's commission on social injustice. His investigation, still in its early stages, suggests that Labour needs to think carefully about the way in which it sells itself to the voters as the party that will attack inequality. "There is basic, massive inequality," he said, after giving his lecture at the conference in Northumbria University, Newcastle

upon Tyne. But while this grew markedly in the late Seventies, when Labour was in power, and in the early Eighties it may be declining.

Dr Dorling concentrates on the geography of deprivation: the difference in people's life chances between rich and poor wards in cities. He said that the overall trend was for neighbourhoods to become more socially mixed, with a wider variety of income groups living close together. The place where a person was born and grew up had less impact on his or her chances in life than it did a generation or two generations ago.

Unemployment appeared to have become more evenly distributed in geographical terms and among the different social classes. Ownership of cars and homes and access to higher education had spread to a wider section of the population through the 1980s.

But Dr Dorling conceded that inequalities in earnings and mortality appeared to be still growing. The collapse of the housing market at the end of the 1980s had been a great equaliser, wiping out much or all of the capital of millions of homeowners. "A lot of affluent people have become worse off," he said. Nonetheless, negative equity was more prevalent among the new, 1980s breed of relatively low income first-time buyers than among longer established, wealthier home owners. Dr Dorling said researchers had a difficult task in assessing trends in inequality because of a dearth of data. The Inland Revenue would not disclose local statistics on income and one of the most authoritative bodies, the Royal Commission on Income and Wealth, was wound up by the incoming Tory government in 1979. There was also a growing tendency for people on low incomes to be self employed. They tended to under-declare their earnings and work partly or wholly in the black economy, making it harder to asses how poor the poor we re.

The South-east, Britain's most affluent region, received 60 per cent of the sweeping income tax cuts of the 1988 budget, even though it has only one third of the population, Chris Hamnett, Professor of Human Geography at King's College, London told the conference. The region's take-home incomes were boosted by £1.6bn a year by the elimination of most higher tax rates. It amounted to a reversal of the established policy of injecting money into the poorest regions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower