House prices 7x key workers' salaries

HOUSE prices in East Anglia are now more than seven times the salaries of ambulance staff, nurses and firefighters, it has been revealed.The region has seen one of the biggest increases in the number of towns where the average house is unaffordable for key workers, the study shows.

HOUSE prices in East Anglia are now more than seven times the salaries of ambulance staff, nurses and firefighters, it has been revealed.

The region has seen one of the biggest increases in the number of towns where the average house is unaffordable for key workers, the study shows.

It has prompted experts to warn that communities are being “socially cleansed”, as people on lower incomes are unable to stay in their home towns because there is not suitable affordable housing available.

The study, conducted by Halifax, shows that 68% of towns surveyed in East Anglia were out of key workers' price range in March this year. The figure was only 16% five years ago.


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The average house price is now more than seven times the annual gross average earnings for ambulance staff, fire service employees and a typical nurse, while five times the salaries of teachers and police officers.

But Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, said it was not only the employees identified in the survey who were finding the booming housing market difficult but “ordinary workers” as well.

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“I would like to see allocation being made for affordable housing dispersed across the county,” he said.

“When there are developments they tend to be concentrated on two to three larger urban areas in Suffolk, spoiling the character of these towns and not meeting the needs of our residents.

“Communities are being 'socially cleansed': those on lower incomes are being forced out. There's a lot of social consequences from this.”

Nick Shuttleworth, executive director for the Rural Community Council for Essex, added: “We are not going to create sustainable communities unless we can make our housing at affordable prices.

“If we cannot do that our market towns and villages will go on looking attractive but they will be soulless, with all the knock on effects to local services that it has.”

The figures were calculated using Office for National Statistics data, which show the average annual earnings - not entry-level salaries - for full time primary and secondary school teachers in 2006 was £31,626, nurses £24,759, police officers £34,913, firefighters £26,511 and ambulance staff - excluding paramedics - £21,384.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said the NHS key worker scheme, which gives support to those in frontline roles in healthcare, showed it appreciates the problem.

She added that the hospital keeps staff informed of the scheme and any housing developments near it.

A spokesperson for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service added: “A firefighter's salary ranges from under £20,000 whilst training and rising to £26,500 when fully trained. With house prices continuing to rise it makes it increasingly difficult for some to get onto the property ladder.”

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said the pay award for staff called Agenda for Change had “undoubtedly” provided real increases in pay and those in west Essex now get a high cost of living allowance.

But he added: “The high cost of houses in Essex is an issue that causes the trust concern.”

Martin Goold, Suffolk county secretary for the National Union of Teachers, added: “The ordinary classroom teachers on the first six points of the scale are already struggling and they will find it more difficult to have any permanent foothold in Suffolk.

“They are tending to use rented accommodation and that also means they are less likely to stay and make their careers here.”

Martin Ellis, chief economist at Halifax, said key workers had been “hit hard” by the strength of the property market over the last five years. Yet the presence of sufficient key workers was critical to the smooth functioning of life in towns, he said.

rebecca.sheppard@eadt.co.uk

Average house price to earnings ratios for key workers in East Anglia March 2001 to 2006.

2001 2006

Fire services 4.5 7.6

Police officers 3.1 5.0

Teachers 3.4 5.5

Nurses 4.1 7.0

Ambulance staff - 7.9

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