Deprivation figures do not reflect reality, say Hucknall councillors

Coun John Wilmott, who believes people in Hucknall are upbeat about the town at the moment.
Coun John Wilmott, who believes people in Hucknall are upbeat about the town at the moment.

Two veteran Hucknall councillors have questioned fresh statistics that claim parts of Ashfield are among the most deprived areas in the country.

The figures, released by the social inequality charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, say large portions of the district are ‘locked out’ of jobs and opportunities.

Coun Chris Baron (left), of Hucknall, who says things aren't as bad as the figures suggest.

Coun Chris Baron (left), of Hucknall, who says things aren't as bad as the figures suggest.

As a whole, Ashfield is ranked 68th worst of 317 local authority areas across the country, and seventh worst in the East Midlands.

But 16 per cent of the district’s neighbourhoods appear among the top ten per cent most deprived nationally.

However, Couns Chris Baron and John Wilmott, who have served Hucknall for many years, say the statistics do not reflect reality.

“I don’t things are as bad as they are made out to be,” said Coun Baron, who represents the Conservatives on Ashfield District Council.

“There are pockets of deprivation wherever you go in the country, but it is unfair to equate Ashfield with places down south, where it is a completely different way of life to ours.

“In Ashfield, houses are selling, and there is a waiting list, so people still want to come and live here.

“Admittedly, our jobs are not as highly-skilled as in the major centres because that’s where all the larger employers tend to go .

“However, Hucknall, Sutton and Kirkby appear to be more commuting towns than employment towns. And one of the reasons for that is the price of housing here is considerably cheaper than in the city centre. They are good-quality houses too.

“Over the last ten years, we have made great strides in Ashfield to create real improvements.

“You also have to bear in mind people’s lifestyles, cultures and their ethos in life.

“They might not have as much disposable income as people in other places, but they tend to spend it locally, which is good.”

Coun Baron’s views were echoed by Coun Wilmott, who is a member of the council’s ruling Independent group.

He said: “When I go round Hucknall, I find the people of the town quite upbeat.

“There are a lot of good things happening, and a lot of people are working hard to make it better and better.

“It surprises me that Ashfield is ranked so low. Yes, there could be more investment, but a major problem is that the government is taking more and more money from local councils.

“We are working tirelessly at the council to find any funding opportunities.

“I don’t think things are that bad, although we are not complacent and will continue to work with everyone, including the churches.

“Deprivation is not a nice thing, and we will try to put things in place to make the district better.”

The figures were based on up-to-date data relating to income, employment, education, health and crime, as well as housing services and the environment.

Ashfield’s Labour MP, Gloria De Piero, said more investment was needed to bring skilled jobs in the area.

She said: “People need to be given the chance to lift themselves out of poverty. We also need the introduction of a proper living wage, and improvements to housing and transport infrastructure, which are both barely fit for the 21st century.

“Former coalfield areas like this have been ignored for too long at the expense of big cities, and that has to change as a matter of urgency.”

Hucknall’s Conservative MP, Mark Spencer, said: “I think the government has made big strides for former coalfield communities.

“We have just awarded £25 million to both Sutton and Kirkby from the Future High Streets Fund, which shows how seriously the government is committed to helping to support areas like Ashfield.”