Metrics of Shame

“As an affluent county we should do much better”

Poverty and prosperity cheek by jowl

Dorset is a beautiful county, visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors a year – in 2020 there were 13.7 m day trips to the county, with visitors spending £468m – (Dorset Tourism Partnership, South West Research Company Ltd)

But there is a hidden Dorset, one marked by deep inequalities and deprivation, where poverty and prosperity are found close together, cheek by jowl – as noted by Professor Danny Dorling, Halford Makinder Professor of Geography, fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford in a keynote speech in Weymouth in October 2018 – (WeyPAW Conference – Weymouth and Portland Action on Wages – reported in the Dorset Echo, 16 October 2018)

County Councillor’s shame

Dorset has the lowest social mobility of all English Parliamentary Constituencies – it ranks 533rd out of 533 English Constituencies – (Social Mobility Index by Constituency, House of Commons library, 18 October 2018)

Conservative Dorset County Councillor and Cabinet Member, Gary Suttle, said in a Dorset Council (July 2021): “… disgraceful. I could not believe that. As an affluent county we should do much better”

London prices, Dorset wages

Dorset is a county of low wages and high costs of living, especially housing costs, which are rising year by year

The University of Exeter Centre for Social Mobility says succinctly: “disadvantaged young people … face a double bind of poor mobility prospects and a poor earnings outlook” –

The GMB reported 6.5k residents in Weymouth and Portland working for less than £9 an hour in 2019 – (Source – Dorset Echo, April 2021)

The Dorset Echo, in a report dated 28 October 2017, quoted Office of National Statistic figures saying that average weekly wages in Weymouth and Portland were the lowest in UK, down 8.3% from previous year

The Constituency Dashboard reports median earnings for Richard Drax’s constituency of South Dorset are £26.4k – compared to £28.8k for the SW region, £30.3k for England and Wales – (House of Commons Library, Constituency Dashboard, February 2020)

Finer detail reveals local variations, confirming pockets of low wages

Houses beyond the pocket of average wage earners

The Yorkshire Building Society calculates the average yearly wage in Purbeck as £25k, and the multiple for buying a house as 12.1 – (using a range of data sources, including HM Land Registry and the UK House Price Index, September 2019)

The house to price earnings ratio for the South Dorset Constituency as a whole is 9.7 – for the South West, 9.4 – for England and Wales, 8.3 – (Source: Constituency Dashboard)

The Constituency Dashboard reports that the median price for a house in South Dorset in December 2020 was £255k – in December 2010, it was £205k

In December 2020, the median price for a house in Swanage was £338.5k, in Corfe/Langton Matravers, £547.5k

Zoopla reported the average price for a property in Purbeck in November 2021 as £394k. Flats in the Isle of Purbeck sold at an average of £274k, and terraced houses at £578k

Properties lost to second homeowners

Many properties in Swanage, Purbeck and South Dorset are holiday homes. The Pan Purbeck Action Campaign estimates that 50% of the properties in Studland and Worth Matravers are second homes

The Dorset Echo in 2007 reported 1 in 14 properties in Purbeck were second homes.

The greatest number of second homes was in Swanage – 16.13% of properties there

Highest rental increases in the UK

The Dorset Echo in August 2019 reported that most of Dorset had seen rents rise faster than average wages. In Purbeck, rents rose by 11.15%, wages by 7.3% reports the average and median rent for a property in Swanage as £625 pcm – (November 2021) in November 2021 reports an average rent in Swanage as £991.81 pcm

The Guardian in November 2021 reported that rents in Purbeck were up by 16.2% annually, making it the location with the highest rental growth in the UK

The Bournemouth Echo quoted Kate Anson of Purbeck Lettings who said that there was now “(an) unprecedented demand for rental properties (in Purbeck) from people currently living … (there) … and those wanting to relocate to the area”. (1)

Zoe Blyth of Wareham Citizens Advice reports that the maximum amount housing benefit would pay someone on universal credit who needed a 2 bed in Purbeck was at least £200 per month short of the actual cost of a private sector 2 bed rental

Priced out of Purbeck

The 2016 Dorset Council housing needs survey for Swanage had just over 1000 respondents, 80 of whom reported that they had family members who had had to move away because they could not afford to live in Swanage.

Dorset Council waiting list for Swanage in 2020 showed over 150 families waiting for an affordable home to rent. Further Dorset Council stats sourced by County Councillor Paul Kimber showed that people could wait up to 29 years for a two bed in Purbeck.

Given the overall low level of Dorset wages, with a low pay seasonal economy, and London prices, particularly where housing is concerned, many people can’t afford to live in Purbeck

Universal Credit

The Constituency Dashboard reports that in May 2021, there were 7,017 households in South Dorset receiving Universal Credit – 8,253 people

An estimated 4,526 households were still receiving legacy benefits and tax credits

Case rollout is 61% complete – meaning South Dorset ranks 30th out of 55 constituencies in the SW, and 347th out of th3 632 constituencies in the UK

Data for 1 August 2021 shows 8,242 people in South Dorset were claiming UC – 3.819 of these were working, and 4,426 were not in work

In August 2021, the claimant rate for Unemployment Benefit was 3.19% – there were 2,137 claimants

Children living in poverty

DWP data shows that 7,795 Dorset children aged under 16 were living in poverty in 2019-20 – (13% of 0-16 year olds in Dorset – up from 12% in 2018-19)

77% of Dorset children living in poverty were in working households – 33% in one parent families

The Constituency Dashboard reports the relative child poverty rate (2) for South Dorset in 2019-20 as 15.4%, compared to 14.2% for the South West, and 19.1% for the UK. 77.3% of the households in relative poverty were in work

The absolute poverty rate (3) for South Dorset was 12.7%, compared to 11.7% for the South West, and 15.5% for the UK

There are very significant pockets of child poverty in South Dorset, to be found especially in Swanage and Weymouth and Portland.

In one small area of South Swanage (4) for example, the relative child poverty rate is 27.3% – for absolute poverty, 18.5%

Shameful Constituency rankings

A House of Commons Library Paper, Constituency Data: Indices of Deprivation (September 2020) ranks Dorset as 235th out of 533 English Constituencies for deprivation in 2019

The Constituency has dropped 26 places since 2015. There are 7 indicators, and there are rankings for each of these

For example, in terms of the income deprivation affecting older people index, South Dorset ranks 368th: for crime, 325th: for barriers to housing and services, 239th

There are 6 highly deprived areas (lower layer super output areas) in the Constituency – 11% of all its LSOAs, compared to a national average of 10%

Reports painting a bleak picture

A 2019 Summary Report for Dorset Council indicates that 9 areas in Dorset fall into the top 20% most deprived for income deprivation, up from 7 in 2015

The Hidden Dorset II Report, published by the Dorset Community Foundation, provides many examples of deprivation in South Dorset, Purbeck and Swanage

For example, 9.10% of Purbeck Households are described as fuel poor, 20 out of the 29 LSOAs in Purbeck experience education deprivation, and that 16 out of the 29 LSOAs in Purbeck are in the top 50% most affected by barriers to housing and services

The Report paints a picture of contrasts, confirming the view taken by Danny Dorling – “Dorset has 33 of the top 20% most deprived LSOAs in England, side by side with some of the most affluent areas in the country”

Health inequalities shortening lives

The most health deprived LSOAs in Dorset are in Bournemouth, and Weymouth and Portland

Weymouth and Portland have 8 LSOAs in the top 10% most health deprived and a further three in the top 20%

There are LSOAs of relative health deprivation in Swanage

The Constituency Dashboard data reflects the conclusions of the Hidden Dorset Report

There are health inequalities which match deprivation – for example, the incidence of obesity (5) is 11.5% in Weymouth Town and Melcombe Regis, compared to 10.7% for South Dorset, 10.1% for the South West and 10.15% for England

The incidence of Coronary Heart Disease (6) is 6% for Swanage, compared to 4.9% for South Dorset, 3.6% for the South West and 3.1% for England

The incidence of depression (7) for Swanage is 12.13%, compared to 15.4% for South Dorset and 11.5% for England

Underfunded schools

The Constituency Dashboard reports that the South Dorset Parliamentary Constituency ranks 468th out of 533 English Constituencies as regards funding per school pupil (£4,482 per pupil in 2020-21) with funding falling in real terms 2.3% since 2014-15

The School Cuts Website calculates that 103 out of 150 schools in Dorset are underfunded with a shortfall (8) of £4.4m or per pupil loss of £94 (9)

The degree to which individual schools in Swanage and Purbeck are underfunded varies from school to school

Swanage Primary School, for example, had a short fall in 2020 of £6.062, equating to a per pupil loss of £33 (10)

The Swanage School had a shortfall in 2020 of £84,777, equating to a per pupil loss of £267 (10)

Poor educational outcomes

The Constituency Dashboard reports only 28% of pupils in South Dorset attended Secondary Schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted in August 2019, compared to 76% for the region, and 80% for England

72% of pupils in South Dorset attended Secondary Schools rated inadequate by Ofsted in August 2019, compared to 8% for the region, and 6% for England

By contrast, only 2% of pupils attended Primary Schools rated inadequate by Ofsted in August 2019, compared to 3% for the region, and 3% for England

Average attainment 8 scores (11) for 2019 for South Dorset pupils were 38.6, compared to 46.7 for the South West and 46.9 for England

53% of pupils in South Dorset achieved grades A* – C in English and Maths in 2019, compared to 65% in England


1 Bournemouth Echo, 16 November 2021

2 The percentage of 0 to 15 year olds living in households with income below 60% of the median before housing costs

3 The percentage of 0 to 15 year olds living in households with income below 60% of the median income in 2010-11 before housing costs

4 Purbeck 006D – A lower layer super output area – or LSOA, containing approximately 746 households, with a population of 1,511 (2011 Census)

5 The percentage of GP patients, over 18, with a BMI over 30 in the last 12 months – estimated prevalence in 2019-20

6 The percentage of GP patients of all ages with Coronary Heart Disease

7 The percentage of GP patients over 18 with a diagnosis of Depression

8 The difference between funding received and the amount needed to protect per pupil funding in real terms

9 The amount that would be lost for every pupil in Dorset as a result of reduced funding. Dorset has 43,948 pupils according to the Government’s School Census

10 As estimated by School Cuts Website

11 An Attainment 8 score is an average score based on a pupil’s best 8 grades in a group of GCSEs