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  • Writer's pictureCapture Politics

A Trickle-down in Hastings & Rye’s standards?

Updated: Nov 5, 2022


"We find that in many key areas a sense of decline in living standards and public services has indeed occured. "


Many have argued that a worrying long-term trend is emerging in the constituency where public services and living standards appear to be in decline. To test if this sentiment is accurate, Capture Politics has investigated key indicators of living standards and the quality of local services. We find that in recent years many key indicators are showing a noticeable steady decline in living standards in service performance.


Living standards, the cost of living:


Firstly, if we look at living standards it can be argued that people have seen a decline in living standards. The easiest measure to assess this is to estimate the cost of living. This is defined as the average yearly percentage increase in residents’ wages compared to the level of inflation. From 2010 – 2020 people’s wages in the constituency are estimated to only have increased by £2,100, bringing the average wage to just above £22,000. This represents on average a 1.4% wage increase per year. However, across the last decade inflation on average has been higher than this, averaging 3.1%. This means that in real terms across the last decade the average year brought a 1.7% decrease in people’s wages. Figure one shows that in real terms only two of the last ten years brought an increase in people’s income. Importantly, with higher inflation this year, this trend looks unlikely to change any time soon. Therefore, it is fair to say that there has been a downward trend in Hastings & Rye’s living standards, meaning that in terms of income there are lower living standards.


Image 1 - Yearly change in cost of living, It shows the cost of living has got tougher. Note: the cost of living only takes into account wages & not pension income. Benefit recipients are worse off due to their benefits not rising with inflation.

Growing levels of poverty:


According to the indices of multiple deprivation (a system of assessing how poor or affluent an area is), Hastings has become slightly more deprived than it was a decade ago, in relative terms, now being ranked the 15th most deprived area in England. The effect of this deprivation has hit children particularly badly, with primary school quality, primary school attainment, secondary school quality, secondary school attainment and A-Level results all appearing to be worse, thus lowering Hasting’s relative deprivation level compared to other constituencies. This means that social mobility levels have worsened in the last decade. Further, figure two shows that relative child poverty rates in Hastings and Rye have increased since 2015, again indicating a slow year-on-year decline in the standard of living for many as an increase in child poverty means shows fewer parents have enough to live on. Moreover, average earnings and the amount paid the living wage is low and predicted to remain low in the near future, again causing poverty levels to increase in recent times. Worryingly, 75% of children who live in poverty are in households that work, so if wages will not be increasing in real terms for a while due to increasing inflation, this trend is unlikely to improve any time soon.

Image 2: Changes in child poverty levels - Hastings - 2015 to 2020. It shows an increase in child poverty levels.

Housing costs:


According to the multiple indices of deprivation, another key cause behind Hastings & Rye’s poverty levels is the rapid rise in housing costs and the lack of housing that can be designated as “affordable”. This problem has always existed in poor constituencies like Hastings & Rye, but has intensified in recent years. Figure 3 demonstrates that house prices in the constituency have risen rapidly within the last decade, but wages have not risen anywhere near as much. Although house prices started at a much more affordable base in 2010, house price growth has clearly outstripped wage growth to such an extent that house prices are now unaffordable for the average annual wage levels in Hastings & Rye for the first time since records began. To make matters worse, from 2015 new homes being built in the area per-year has down from 182 to 76, meaning housing affordability is likely to continue to be tough as demand continues to outstrip supply. Therefore, this means that even those on average incomes are seeing their living standards squeezed due to housing market trends, especially for younger people trying to get their first home. This again indicates that there is a gradual year-on-year declining trend in people’s living standards.

Figure 3: House price increase compared to wage increase. Shows how housing is making the cost of living tougher.

The tax burden:


Another way to assess the extent to which people are able to enjoy their income is to understand the average tax burden of a taxpayer. The higher the tax burden the greater proportion of people’s income is going to the government and the further this income is stretched across services. Figure 4 shows that the average tax burden has increased within the Hastings & Rye area. As council tax has increased over the last decade and other in-work taxes have increased, this means that the tax burden is not increasing only because of higher taxes on richer people, it is mainly increasing as residents with average income and wealth levels are paying more. This means that residents are paying more in tax and this revenue must go further to support more services, meaning that taxpayers are probably going to be getting less value for money as services must be funded by more stretched resources.

Figure 4: Average tax burden in Hastings 2011 - 2020, it is getting tougher.

Local services:


For example, we can see this occurring in local government. Figure 5 shows that Hastings Borough Council has received less money from national government sources as the last decade progressed. Yet, the tax pressure on taxpayers within this area has increased, effectively meaning residents are paying more but getting less, at least in terms of resources, for local services.


Council services have been stretched as there is limited staff to cover the increasing demand for services. Further, with many council budgets now at breaking point, many councils across the country are now looking to make severe savings in order to balance the books. With possible rises in council tax needed to pay for any savings that can’t be made from cuts, this trend of paying more for fewer stretched services looks likely to continue.

Figure 5: HBC funding compared to the tax burden 2015 - 2022, Paying more for fewer resources?

Therefore, the early indication is that services should be more stretched and are probably in decline, but is this the case?


Public Services:


NHS services:


A & E services:


Firstly, in terms of services, let us look at the NHS. Accident and Emergency (A & E) waiting times are often used as a barometer for how well the NHS is functioning. Usually, when the health care system has problems this is reflected by growing A & E waiting times as when hospitals are stretched they are unable to deal with A & E cases that are non-urgent. The standard acknowledged as the sign of a healthy A & E department is 95% of cases being seen within four hours. Image six shows that within East Sussex this standard has not been met since May 2015, and within the last year waiting time targets being met fell to their lowest levels since the data source we acquired began, in 2010. This surely highlights how hospital services within the East Sussex trusts are under severe strain, likely causing local NHS service standards to decrease.

Image 6: - Percentage of A&E patients seen within the target time. It is way below the standard target and has been for some time.

Ambulance services:


Moving on to another key service, ambulance services, there are again signs of a service under intense stress. Firstly, figure seven outlines how since 2017 now non-urgent patients, known as category 4, within East Sussex are having to wait considerably longer for an ambulance, with times increasing by three hours on average. As these are non-urgent cases, this may not seem like a disaster, but often these cases can be categorised as people who do not have life-threatening problems but still need urgent care. This is why stories about elderly people that have fallen over and having to wait for hours for an ambulance are increasingly emerging. Further, even when these ambulances get to A&E they often have to queue and, as we showed earlier, these people are having to wait increasingly longer to get through A&E. As a result, within the South East people are increasingly having severe delays in accessing these emergency services, again indicating that there has been a continuous decline in the performance of key public services in recent years.



Image 7: Average monthly waiting times in hours for cat 4 patients, times are rising.

Interestingly, this trend was not limited to non-urgent cases but has also materialised in urgent cases as well. Category 1 and 2 patients are the most urgent cases and often cover emergencies like heart attacks and strokes. Figure 8 shows that within Hastings & Rye there has been a steady increase in waiting times within the last year. As these urgent cases need immediate care, an increase in these waiting times can be detrimental to patient outcomes. This again is a sign that the quality of local services has been trickling-down in recent years.


Figure 8: Ambulance waiting times in Hastings & Rye have increased in the last year.

Education:


Education services are seeing a similar decline in service funding and performance. Firstly, within the South East childcare places are harder to come by, with 6% fewer families securing a childcare placement for their child than the national average, in total leaving 16% without childcare coverage. Focusing on per-pupil funding, there has been a stagnation or a decline in all schools within the Hastings & Rye constituency. Primary schools have seen the biggest decline, with many schools receiving over £200 less per pupil compared to what they received in 2015, shown in image nine. On average, schools have seen a funding decrease of £214 per pupil, meaning that fewer resources must be stretched to fund local students’ education, probably resulting in a worse service and outcome for local children.


Figure 9: There has been a decline in funding per pupil within schools in the Hastings & Rye area.

This possibility is borne out in examination results, with both key stage 2 and 4 results stagnating in recent years after improvements had been made, see Figure 10. This would indicate that stagnating and declining levels of per-pupil funding may have limited positive outcomes for pupils in the Hastings & Rye area, again indicating a lowering of standards in public service outcomes.

Fig 10: GCSE qualification pass rate - Hastings & Rye - 2006 onwards, shows stagnation to former progress.

Crime:


Finally, crime is another key indicator of the standard of living. The multiple indices of deprivation measure have indicated crime has gotten worse in recent years within Hastings and local crime statistics confirm this indication. For example, from 2011 to 2019 the crime rate increased from 59.1 to 74.8 crimes per 1,000 people. Worryingly, as seen in figure 11, this has been partly driven by a large increase in violent crime. This again indicates a decline in living standards and how public services are struggling to deal with this growing problem.

Fig 11: Crime rates within local police service areas are increasing, especially violent crime.

Further, another worrying sign is the declining trend of the amount of money that can be given to people to help them to access services whilst services are worsening, in this case being able to access legal aid whilst crime rates are rising. Figure 12 shows how since 2012 there has been a steady decline in the amount of legal aid funding available within the Hastings area. Further to this, there have been cuts to courts and barrister services in the sector. Given that crime rates are increasing, this will mean that there will be an increased need for help with legal cases. This surely again represents a trend where in recent years the standard of public services and the quality of living have been experiencing a declining trend.

Fig 12: Legal aid trends within Hatings & Rye, it shows a clear decline in legal help at a time crime is increasing.

Conclusion:


The conclusion is that we are experiencing a general decline in living standards:

Overall, there appears to be a downward effect on Hastings & Ryes’ living standards and service performance. There has been a gradual decline in living standards due to the gradual rise in the cost of living within Hastings & Rye in the last decade. Additionally, according to key metrics in key service areas, there also appears to be a worsening of public services, at least in terms of the number of positive outcomes residents can expect.


Consequently, if the government’s economic strategy generates growth and increases government revenue then this trend could be reversed. However, if this strategy fails to deliver then these negative trends likely will continue as services will have fewer resources, meaning they will continue to be stretched.

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