Ministers told to make ‘sad’ Londoners happier for Levelling Up agenda

·3-min read
Camden was named among the top 10 most miserable areas (AFP via Getty Images)
Camden was named among the top 10 most miserable areas (AFP via Getty Images)

The government should make unhappy Londoners happier if they are serious about “levelling up”, a top think tank has said.

Research from the Social Market Foundation found relatively affluent boroughs in London - such as Islington, Hackney and Camden - are falling well below the national average for residents’ happiness and life satisfaction.

The analysis found on average, places that are richer tend to be more miserable - ranking lower on reported subjective wellbeing.

Islington, Camden, Southwark and Hackney were named as being in the ten most miserable local authorities, despite being among the economically most successful.

In a list of 377 council areas, Wandsworth ranks 44th from bottom for happiness while Westminster was 66th on the wellbeing list.

By contrast, it found less prosperous areas in the country - such as West Devon and Fermanagh & Omagh - score highly on wellbeing.

It examined how the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ pledge often focuses on economic prosperity when ministers also said they want to give as much weight to wellbeing as wealth.

The anaylsis said this means “rich but miserable” voters - such as those in London - should be included in the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

Aveek Bhattacharya, SMF Chief Economist and author of the paper, said the Government had a “London problem” both politically and also in terms of trying to reduce inequalities in wellbeing.

“Islington and Hackney are not the sort of places that immediately spring to mind when we think of levelling up, but in terms of happiness, anxiety and life satisfaction, they are behind the rest of the country,” he said.

“We need to put similar effort into understanding and addressing the problems people face in these places as we do the economic challenges of ‘left behind’ areas if those gaps are to be closed.

“Having promised to close gaps in wellbeing as part of the Levelling Up agenda, ministers must accept that their promises mean paying more attention to raising the happiness levels of city dwellers who might be described as rich but miserable. Levelling up means many things, including making sad Londoners happier”.

The Queen’s Speech on Tuesday included a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which has a commitment that by 2030 well-being will have improved in every area of the UK.

It pledged to close the gap between top performing and other areas.

However, the research said the Government’s rhetoric has given little indication on how it intend to address dissatisfaction in urban areas such as London.

Researchers said it is not clear why London and other big cities fare so poorly on happiness.

They suggested it could be linked to inequality, housing costs, crime, or a lack of social connections.

It argues better evidence on the causes of unhappiness among city dwellers must be a requirement of the Levelling Up agenda.

Research from another think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), has previously found “regional disparities in the UK are greater than in most comparable countries,” in many areas.

However, it also found that after adjusting for housing costs, living standards between UK regions were not particularly unequal.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting