In this issue ...
1. Social Mobility Index 2017
West Somerset remains a social mobility coldspot in the latest national Social Mobility Index published by the Social Mobility Commission. The district continues to be ranked bottom of 324 local authority areas nationally.
The Social Mobility Index compares the chances of children from poorer backgrounds of doing well at school, finding a good job and having a decent standard of living, across all local authority district areas of England. Its aim is to understand the best and worst places in England in terms of the opportunities young people from poorer backgrounds have to succeed.
According to the index, Taunton Deane offers the greatest opportunity for social mobility in Somerset (ranked 206th of 324 local authority areas nationally), followed by South Somerset (ranked 229th), Mendip (231st) and Sedgemoor (258th). All four district areas have seen their rankings fall in comparison to the previous index published in 2016. See: www.gov.uk/government/publications/social-mobility-index-2017-data
West Somerset has been identified as an Opportunity Area to help address these issues. More information is available here: Social Mobility Delivery Plan West Somerset
2. Impact of Welfare Reform report
The latest annual report from Somerset Intelligence monitoring the impact of benefit reforms on local residents and organisations is now available:
Based on a range of national data sources, the report looks at trends in council tax collection; housing affordability and supply; homelessness; benefit capping; Jobcentre sanctions; Universal Credit claimants; and the use of foodbanks.
The report finds that reform of the welfare benefits system continues to impact on thousands of Somerset residents. However, latest data indicates a reduction of negative impacts in many issues, offset by some areas of increasing concern.
Key findings include:
- Numbers of households subject to the Benefit Cap have increased significantly, following the introduction of lower benefit cap levels in November 2016.
- Homelessness applications have increased in the last year, while estimated numbers of rough sleepers have declined.
- With Universal Credit requiring a broader span of claimants to look for work, the out-of-work Claimant Count is increasing.
- Levels of demand for foodbanks run by the Trussell Trust in the South West have remained consistently high.
3. Progress on 2021 Census questionnaire
The Office for National Statistics has published an update on progress towards the 2021 Census, including decisions made on some new questions. This includes the decisions:
- to include a question on Armed Forces veterans, to support local and central Government’s duties to look after veterans.
- to continue to include a question on number of bedrooms but to utilise data from the Valuation Office Agency to provide potentially more information on, for example, floor space to help understand crowded living conditions.
- not to include a question on volunteering (because ONS have been unable to develop a question which accurately collects the information required by Census users).
Other topics, including ethnicity, religion, sexuality and gender identity are still to be decided on.
Recommendations are due to be made to the Government in 2018.
4. Health State Life Expectancies
Life expectancies for both males and females in Somerset remain around a year higher than UK averages in latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics.
Based on the 2014-16 period, males at birth can expect to live on average for 80.3 years and females can expect to live on average for 84.1 years. Historically, life expectancies have increased year-on-year but have been generally static since the 2010-12 period.
Although women have a higher life expectancy, Healthy and Disability-free life expectancy estimates are relatively similar between the sexes. Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) estimates lifetime spent in good health, while Disability-free Life Expectancy (DfLE) estimates lifetime free from limiting persistent illness or disability. For Somerset, based on 2014-16 mortality and health status rates:
- Males and females can expect to spend only around 81% of their lives in good health (64.8 years and 68.4 years respectively).
- Males can expect to spend 80% of their lives free from disability, compared to 77% for females (63.8 years and 64.7 years respectively)
5. School-Age Children Health Profiles
Recent updates to Public Health England’s school-age child profiles include new data on road traffic accidents, hospital admissions for asthma, admissions for diabetes, and children in care. Somerset appears similar to or better than the national benchmark in respect of all these new indicators.
The profiles comprise around one hundred indicators in all, with Somerset similar to or better than the national average in respect of the large majority of these measures. Areas where Somerset appears worse than the national benchmark include hospital admissions for injuries, A&E attendances and hospital admissions for self-harm. Data is largely based on the 2015/16 period.
6. Excess Winter Deaths
There were 320 excess winter deaths in Somerset in 2015/16 according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This figure was almost half the estimate for the previous year (590), and mirrored a national decline.
Within the county, Taunton Deane had the highest Excess Winter Mortality Index, with 27% more deaths occurring in the winter period than the non-winter months.
While local authority estimates for the 2016/17 winter period will not be published until the end of 2018, provisional figures suggest that excess winter deaths for England as a whole increased by almost 10,000 (40%) in 2016/17. This increase is likely due to the predominant strain of flu prevalent during the 2016 to 2017 winter.
For further details, including the definition of excess winter mortality, see: www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths
7. Households not on the Gas Network
West Somerset has the fifth highest rate of households with no access to mains gas of any local authority in England according to latest (2016) estimates from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (only the Isles of Scilly, Eden, Mid-Suffolk and City of London have higher proportions):
The proportion of ‘non-gas’ households within Somerset ranges from 18% in Taunton Deane district to 46% in West Somerset. For Somerset as a whole, an estimated 65,000 households are not on the gas network. These households are therefore reliant on alternative (generally, more expensive) sources of fuel.
8. Business Births and Deaths
The number of active enterprises in Somerset increased in the latest business demography statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (for 2016). Business ‘births’ (start-ups) were down 3%, while business ‘deaths’ (closures) were up 3% compared to 2015. Business survival rates remained above the national average.
- The number of active enterprises in Somerset increased by 410 on the 2015 figure to 22,355, a rise of 1.9%. This compared to a national rise of 6.1%.
- In 2016, there were 2,295 business births in Somerset, a birth rate of 10.3%. This compared to a UK average of 14.6%.
- There were 2,080 business deaths in Somerset in 2016; 9.3% of the total active enterprises in the county. This was a lower rate than the UK average (11.6%).
9. Railway Station Usage
Passenger numbers increased at all Somerset’s ten railway stations in 2016/17 compared to the previous year, in estimates published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
In 2016/17, combined total of passenger entrances and exits for all Somerset stations was 3,118,684. This was 5% higher than in 2015/16, with individual annual increases ranging from 1% at Castle Cary to 10% at Bridgwater and at Bruton.
Taunton accounts for nearly half of station usage in Somerset, with over 1.4 million entries and exits. By comparison, Exeter St. David’s has 2.6 million and Bristol Temple Meads has 11.3 million.
10. Annual Bus Passenger Statistics
After three successive years of increase, the number of passenger journeys on local bus services in Somerset fell in 2016/17, in figures published by the Department for Transport. There were an estimated 7.2 million passenger journeys in the county during 2016/17, down from 9.7 million in 2015/16.
At 13.1 journeys per head of population per year, Somerset continues to have the lowest rate of local bus passenger journeys in the South West region, and the fourth lowest rate in England as a whole. In the South West region there were 40.0 passenger journeys per head of population in 2015/16.
For the full dataset, see: www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/bus01-local-bus-passenger-journeys
11. Forthcoming Statistical Releases
The following are due for release at sub-regional geographies during January:
- National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) Local Authority Profile data update: Academic year 2016 to 2017 (PHE)
- Local authority housing statistics: year ending March 2017 (DCLG)
- Rough sleeping in England: autumn 2017 (DCLG)
- Destinations of KS4 and KS5 pupils, 2016 to 2017 (revised) (DfE)
- Sub-national electricity and gas consumption at LSOA, MSOA and IGZ level in 2016 (DBEIS)