Suffolk: Three-quarters of county’s population classed as financially comfortable or wealthy, new research shows
PUBLISHED: 12:04 28 June 2014
A snapshot of Suffolk’s population has revealed nearly three-quarters of people are classed as financially comfortable or wealthy – outstripping the national average.
The new figures also confirm the popularity of Suffolk Coastal, Babergh and Mid Suffolk with those who are both retired and well-off, with at least half the population in those areas considered “wealthy achievers”.
The news came on the day a conference was held looking at the prosperity and future of Ipswich – which had the highest level of people classed as “hard-pressed”, but which also has a significant number of residents “comfortably off”.
Last night, it was claimed more action is needed to address areas of inequality within the region, such as building more affordable homes, to give people from poorer backgrounds the same opportunities to contribute to Suffolk’s economy.
The research, one of the largest surveys of the county’s social fabric, was carried out by market research company Acorn and published by the Suffolk Observatory.
It used the census, purchasing patterns, house prices and other techniques to provide detailed snapshots of people’s lifestyles in 2013.
It divided households in to five socio-economic groupings: wealthy achievers, urban prosperity, comfortably off, moderate means and hard-pressed.
In Suffolk, 73.6% of people fell in to the top three categories, compared to the England average of 66.6%.
Broken down by district, Mid-Suffolk (86.9%), Suffolk Coastal (86.3%) and Babergh (78.8%) had the highest proportion of well-heeled residents.
Driving these figures were ‘affluent greys’, ‘flourishing families’ and ‘prosperous professionals’.
However, the statistics exposed a wealth disparity, with Ipswich (58.1%) and Waveney (64.1%) bottom of Suffolk’s table.
Geoff Holdcroft, Woodbridge’s town mayor and Suffolk Coastal’s cabinet member with responsibility for planning, said policymakers must “redouble” their efforts to tackle the discrepancies.
He said: “Even though only 6% of people in Suffolk Coastal are classed as hard-pressed (around 7,600 people), we have got to work hard to make sure they can afford to live in the district.
“We are tackling this from all sides. We are trying to create affordable housing and we want developers to come forward and build new homes.
“We are also encouraging economic development and opening up retail opportunities so people have a wide choice.
“It is important we have a rich and varied economy in which everyone can thrive. Everyone must have the opportunity to achieve what they can achieve.”
He added the district was the “perfect spot” for retired people seeking a new coastal life, while still being close to the “bright lights” of London.
Alaric Pugh, St Edmundsbury’s cabinet member for economic growth, said everyone, including the hard-pressed, can benefit from the council’s support to launch start-up businesses.
Meanwhile in Ipswich, more than one in four (25.6%) people were classed as hard-pressed – slightly more than Portman Road’s capacity of 30,311.
Nationally, it was 17.3%, and 12.5% in Suffolk.
Elderly people and struggling families living in council flats are among those classes as hard-pressed.
David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said talk of an economic recovery “rings very hollow” for many people.
“With prices rising faster than wages, the cost of living crisis continues to deepen,” he warned.
“Although unemployment is falling, far too many people are working in low paid, part-time and insecure jobs
“The borough council has shown what can be done by banning zero-hours contracts and becoming a living wage employer. We need more employers to follow suit.”