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A Commentary on Leeds City Council's
Neighbourhood Index

1. Leeds City Council has adopted a 'Neighbourhood Index', which is described as follows: "The City Council has worked with partner organisations to develop an enhanced area profiling system at the neighbourhood level. The result of this work is the production of a "Neighbourhood Index" for the city, which provides the Council and its partners with a robust evidence base by which to plan service interventions and to begin to identify and guide resources into the areas of greatest need. It contributes to a more sophisticated understanding of the problems and issues facing local communities, the people in those communities, and provides a framework to bench mark progress in key neighbourhoods and communities."

2. Inner NW Leeds comprises thirteen Neighbourhoods. How 'robust' and 'sophisticated' is this Index? And therefore how well are 'service interventions' going to be planned? Confidence is not enhanced when the Cardigan Triangle is located in the 'Headingley Central' Neighbourhood - and even worse, Wood Lane counts as 'South Headingley'!

3. Neighbourhoods are assessed on 26 indicators in seven domains. These may be useful in some areas. But for the core of Inner NW Leeds, that is Headingley Ward and adjacent areas of the other wards, these indicators are downright misleading. Some are simply irrelevant, some are mis-applied, and possible relevant indicators are ignored.

4. Irrelevant Indicators
- Economic Activity: includes % of working-age population claiming various benefits - but the majority of the population (being students) is not eligible for such claims.
- Low Income: includes numbers claiming Council Tax benefit - but of course, students are exempt from Council Tax.
- Education: includes low achievement by school pupils - but school pupils are only a fraction of the population.
- Health includes those with serious health problems, but 'young adults' are largely free of these.
The significance of this is that low scores push the Neighbourhood up the rankings - and so out of the zone needing support.

5. Indicators Mis-Applied
- Community Safety: crime statistics are aggregated - so the serious burglary problem disappears.
- Environment: data collected does not refer to endemic waste problems, rodent infestation, minimal recycling - nor the pigsty that is the student changeover.
- Housing: prices inflated by landlords are seen as an asset; tenure proportions are omitted (e.g. percentage of private renting); provision of affordable housing is actually seen as a liability!
So, real problems are not recognised.

6. Relevant Indicators Omitted
- Demographic Profile: for instance, age profile (young-adult predominance), or transience, or seasonality, or household type (e.g. one-person, family, multiple).
- Civic Responsibility: for instance, election turnout, or (negatively) number of local regulations (e.g. Cumulative Impact Policy, Designated Public Places Orders, Flyer Control Zone, Direction on Letting Boards, HMO Licences, Policy H15: Area of Housing Mix).
These indicators draw attention to the root problems, lack of community cohesion.

7. The 'core' of Inner NW Leeds mentioned above comprises five Neighbourhoods. According to the Index (using irrelevant or mis-applied indicators), four of these are well above average. So, these are 'healthy' Neighbourhoods - with no 'areas of need' or 'critical issues'. On the other hand, a survey a year ago by Sheffield University, using demographic profiling, identified Inner NW Leeds as having the least cohesive community, not just in Leeds - but in the whole country!

A Report on the Neighbourhood Index for Inner NW Leeds is available online (see Item 10).

21 February 2010


Leeds HMO Lobby
email: hmolobby@hotmail.com website: www.hmolobby.org.uk/leeds