Department of Health and NHS criticised
for making too little progress
tackling key barometer of inequality
Denis Campbell, health correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 2 July 2010
This article appeared on p1 of the Main section section
of the Guardian
Friday 2 July 2010.
It was published on guardian.co.uk
at 00.05 BST
on Friday 2 July 2010.
It was last modified at 00.05 BST
on Friday 2 July 2010.
The life expectancy gap between rich and poor people in England is widening,
despite years of government and NHS action, a hard-hitting National Audit Office
report reveals today.
Extensive efforts have failed to reduce the wide differential, which can still
be 10 years or more depending on socio-economic background, says the public
spending watchdog. While life expectancy has risen generally, it is increasing
at a slower rate for England's poorest citizens.
In Blackpool, for example, men live for an average of 73.6 years, which is 10.7
fewer than men in Kensington and Chelsea in central London, who reach 84.3
years. Similarly, women in the Lancashire town typically die at 78.8 years –
10.1 years earlier than those in the London borough, who reach an average 89.9.
The gap in life expectancy between government-designated areas of high
deprivation and the national average has continued to widen, so Labour's aim of
reducing it by 10% will not be met, the NAO concludes. The failure to meet the
target has cost an estimated 3,300 lives.
The report criticises the Department of Health and the NHS for making too little
progress to tackle this key barometer of inequality. Although the DoH set a
target in 2000 to reduce health inequalities and published a strategy in 2003,
real NHS action did not begin until 2006, it says.
"The Department of Health has made a concerted effort to tackle a very difficult
and long-standing problem," said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.
"However, it was slow to take action and health inequalities were not a top
priority for the NHS until 2006."
The service was also slow to apply three key policies, including giving more
poor people drugs to reduce their blood pressure or cholesterol level. "These
have yet to be adopted on the scale required to close the inequalities gap," the
The report also highlights a continuing lack of GPs in poor areas with high
health need, despite shortages having been identified as a problem in 2000. It
is also unclear whether an extra £230 a head spent in some areas to improve
health outcomes has had any real impact.
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said
the disparities showed the inequality of English society. "If we see ourselves
as a civilised society, these gaps are an indication of unfairness, which
shouldn't be there, and is an unfairness which costs lives, damages people's
health and will eventually be a huge burden on the NHS if they aren't tackled,"
But the NAO report did contain good news about improvements in the health of
England's poorest citizens, he added. "The health of the people in the poorest
areas is going in the right direction – that's good news. We shouldn't regard
that as a failure. But the bulk of the population are improving their health at
a faster rate." He urged ministers to resist any temptation to cut spending on
health inequalities in the tough financial climate.
Anne Milton, the public health minister, emphasised the government's belief in
health equality. "Everyone should have the same opportunities to lead a healthy
life no matter where they live. We want the public's health to be at the very
heart of all we do, not just in the NHS but across government," she said.
"This report shows that efforts have been made to address health inequalities
but that more needs to be done to tackle the deep-rooted social problems that
cause ill-health. I want to see the NHS, doctors and local government acting at
the right time to improve the health of those who need it most."
The NHS Confederation, which represents most health service organisations,
admitted that more progress was needed. Jo Webber, its deputy policy director,
said: "The NHS and its partners, especially in local government, have a
responsibility to help stop people falling into and continuing in ill-health
rather than picking up the pieces when it may be too late. Encouraging improved
health requires a focus on all aspects of society, including economic
inequality, and quality of life in early years."
Tammy Boyce, of the King's Fund health thinktank, said the NHS could only
achieve so much. "Tackling health inequalities is not a task for the NHS alone.
It requires a co-ordinated, long-term commitment across government to address
the wider causes of ill health such as poverty and poor housing," she said.
"The first test of whether the coalition government is likely to succeed where
the previous government failed will come in this autumn's spending review. It is
vital that cross-cutting issues like health inequalities are not overlooked in
the scramble to deliver spending cuts on a department-by-department basis."
Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said the big gap in life
expectancy had to be tackled in the light of the government's intention to
increase the age at which people can draw the state pension. "With a 13-year
disparity in life expectancy between different areas of the country, it's
shocking that primary care trusts are still failing to use simple and effective
treatments to help tackle the problem.
"This report follows the government's announcement last week to raise the state
pension age further and faster, which will hit those with a shorter life
expectancy in the poorest areas of Britain hardest," she said. "In this context,
tackling health inequalities is more urgent than ever and the government must
set ambitious targets to close the yawning life expectancy divide."
Keith Gough spent much of his winnings
on racehorses, fast cars
and an executive
at Aston Villa
Saturday 3 April 2010
This article appeared on p9 of the Main section section
of the Guardian
Saturday 3 April 2010.
It was published on guardian.co.uk at 01.32 BST
on Saturday 3 April 2010.
A former baker who claimed that winning £9m on the lottery ruined his life,
leaving him penniless, alone and alcoholic, has died of a suspected heart
Keith Gough, 58, won the jackpot with his wife Louise in June 2005, but spent
much of his winnings on racehorses, fast cars and an executive box at Aston
Villa. He died at the Princess Royal hospital in Telford, Shropshire. It is
believed he suffered a heart attack.
Two years after his win, Gough split from his wife of 25 years and began
drinking heavily. He then reportedly checked into the Priory rehabilitation
clinic in Birmingham for treatment.
He said he slept in the spare room of his nephew's house and spent most of his
time indoors, only venturing out for long walks alone in the Shropshire
"My life was brilliant. But the lottery has ruined everything. What's the point
of having money when it sends you to bed crying?" he told the News of the World
last year. "Now when I see someone going in to a newsagent I advise them not to
buy a lottery ticket."
According to the paper the win made him a target for conmen, one of whom cheated
him out of £700,000.
Gough, who lived in Brignorth, Shropshire, at the time of his win, said he and
his wife, a secretary, had been very much in love and looking forward to
John Homer, who owns a newsagents in Broseley, Shropshire, said yesterday that
he still remembered when "Goughie" bought his winning ticket. Homer, 65, said:
"It was a Wednesday and a rollover from the previous Saturday. It all went
downhill from there. He and his wife split. He did have a drink problem and it
got progressively worse."
He added: "It's very sad because it should have made him a very happy man, but
he didn't get the best out of it. You never expected any sorrow or problems, but
he must have had some, although he never spoke about them to me."
Gough, who was driving a T-registered Skoda at the time of the win, said at the
time he had to "pinch himself". "I have never had any dreams come true before
and now I suppose I don't have to have any dreams."
• 1980s income gap still not plugged, say analysts
• Brown says equality panel report a 'sobering' read
• Datablog: get the numbers behind this story
Wednesday 27 January 2010
Amelia Gentleman and Hélène Mulholland
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 08.54 GMT
on Wednesday 27
It was last modified at 08.57 GMT
on Wednesday 27 January 2010.
A detailed and startling analysis of how unequal Britain has become offers a
snapshot of an increasingly divided nation where the richest 10% of the
population are more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10% of society.
Gordon Brown described the paper, published today, as "sobering", saying: "The
report illustrates starkly that despite a levelling-off of inequality in the
last decade we still have much further to go."
The report, An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK, scrutinises the degree
to which the country has become more unequal over the past 30 years. Much of it
will make uncomfortable reading for the Labour government, although the paper
indicates that considerable responsibility lies with the Tories, who presided
over the dramatic divisions of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Researchers analyse inequality according to a number of measures; one indicates
that by 2007-8 Britain had reached the highest level of income inequality since
soon after the second world war.
The new findings show that the household wealth of the top 10% of the population
stands at £853,000 and more – over 100 times higher than the wealth of the
poorest 10%, which is £8,800 or below (a sum including cars and other
When the highest-paid workers, such as bankers and chief executives, are put
into the equation, the division in wealth is even more stark, with individuals
in the top 1% of the population each possessing total household wealth of £2.6m
Commissioned by Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, the National
Equality Panel has been working on the 460-page document for 16 months, led by
Prof John Hills, of the London School of Economics.
The report is more ambitious in scope than any other state-of-the-nation wealth
assessment project ever undertaken.
It concludes that the government has failed to plug the gulf that existed
between the poorest and richest in society in the 1980s. "Over the most recent
decade, earnings inequality has narrowed a little and income inequality has
stabilised on some measures, but the large inequality growth of the 1980s has
not been reversed," it states.
Hills said: "These are very challenging issues for any government because the
problems are so deep-seated."
"But we hope that by doing this work, policy makers have now got information
they never had before, to try and get at the roots of some of those problems."
Harman said the issues raised meant the government needs to "sustain and step
up" action introduced by government over the past 13 years, such as children's
centres and tax credits. "It takes generations to make things more equal," she
told Radio 4's Today programme.
Social mobility was "essential" for the economy, she said. "..The government
should take action to ensure everyone has a fair chance."
The panel found "systematic differences in equality panel economic outcomes"
remained between social groups, and said many would find the "sheer scale of
inequalities" in outcomes "shocking".
Inequality in earnings and income is high in Britain compared with other
industrialised countries, the report states.
A central theme of the report is the profound, lifelong negative impact that
being born poor, and into a disadvantaged social class, has on a child. These
inequalities accumulate over the life cycle, the report concludes. Social class
has a big impact on children's school readiness at the age of three, but
continues to drag children back through school and beyond.
"The evidence we have looked at shows the long arm of people's origins in
shaping their life chances, stretching through life stages, literally from
cradle to grave. Differences in wealth in particular are associated with
opportunities such as the ability to buy houses in the catchment areas of the
best schools or to afford private education, with advantages for children that
continue through and beyond education. At the other end of life, wealth levels
are associated with stark differences in life expectancy after 50," the report
It echoes other recent research suggesting that social mobility has stagnated,
and concludes that "people's occupational and economic destinations in early
adulthood depend to an important degree on their origins". Achieving the
"equality of opportunity" that all political parties aspire to is very hard when
there are such wide differences between the resources that people have to help
them fulfil their diverse potentials, the panel notes.
Researchers analysed the total wealth accrued by households over a lifetime. The
top 10%, led by higher professionals, had amassed wealth of £2.2m, including
property and pension assets, by the time they drew close to retirement (aged
55-64), while the bottom 10% of households, led by routine manual workers, had
amassed less than £8,000.
Harman acknowledged in the report that the "persistent inequality of social
class" was a large factor in perpetuating disadvantage, adding that the
government would begin to address this with the new legal duty placed on public
bodies to address socio-economic inequality, included in the equality bill.
The report follows research published by Save the Children which revealed that
13% of the UK's children were now living in severe poverty, and that efforts to
reduce child poverty had been stalling even before the recession began in 2008.
The Hills report also found that: • Divisions between social groups are no
longer as significant as the inequalities between individuals from the same
social group; inequality growth of the last 40 years is mostly attributable to
gaps within groups rather than between them.
• White British pupils with GCSE results around or below the national median are
less likely to go on to higher education than those from minority ethnic groups.
Pakistani, Black African and Black Caribbean boys have results at the age of 16
well below the median in England.
• Compared with a white British Christian man with similar qualifications, age
and occupation, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim men and Black African Christian
men have an income that is 13-21% lower. Nearly half of Bangladeshi and
Pakistani households are in poverty.
• Girls have better educational outcomes than boys at school and are more likely
to enter higher education and achieve good degrees, but women's median hourly
pay is 21% less than men's.
The significance of where you live is another theme. The panel says the
government is a "very long way" from fulfilling its vision, set out in 2001,
that "within 10 to 20 years no one should be seriously disadvantaged by where
they live". The paper notes "profound and startling differences" between areas.
Median hourly wages in the most deprived 10th of areas are 40% lower than in the
Demand for free parcels at food banks soars
as big freeze leaves
to pay for both food and warmth
Sunday 17 January 2010
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 19.06 GMT
on Sunday 17 January
A version appeared on p6 of the UK news section
of the Guardian
on Monday 18
It was last modified at 19.07 GMT
on Sunday 17 January 2010.
Holly Billen sat perched on the edge of her sofa, holding the
bump of her unborn child and nervously biting her lip. "It's nothing to be proud
of to say you don't have the money to feed yourself," she said. "But I'm not
ashamed to say it."
Aged 26 and eight months pregnant, she has had to endure most prolonged cold
snap in her lifetime. The soaring heating costs mean the choice between going
cold or going hungry has become a daily dilemma.
Food is sacrificed for warmth in her terraced cottage in Wilton, Wiltshire, not
least because her eight-year-old son, Brandon, has contracted a succession of
colds. "I've felt really bad some nights," she said. "He's in bed, and really
cold. But there's no money for the extra heat. So its extra blankets and socks
and vests under pyjamas."
Recently, she turned to a less conventional remedy for the sub-zero
temperatures. Completely out of money for gas, she took apart a shelf unit to
use as fuel in her fireplace. "I figured I needed it more for heat than
storage," she said. "My boyfriend came into the garden because he heard me out
there with a saw."
It may sound like a story set in the Victorian era, but Billen, a dancer, is not
alone. She is among thousands of people who have begun relying on food handouts
to free up money to spend on heating during what the Met Office is describing as
the longest spell of freezing conditions since December 1981. While some areas
had milder weather today, forecasters said fresh snow could arrive by Tuesday.
Four miles from Billen's home, the depot for the largest food bank in the
country is feeling the strain. In the cold weather, demand has doubled at the
depot, on the outskirts of Salisbury, and the shelves that normally hold fruit
juice, sugar and canned meat are nearly empty.
The Trussell Trust, a Christian charity that runs the depot and a network of 56
others across the country, said the cold has led to an unprecedented demand for
its parcels, which contain enough donated items to keep a family fed for six
days. To qualify for a box of food under the scheme, an individual or family
needs to be provided with a voucher by a care professional such as a teacher,
social worker or doctor. In December – when the freezing weather in large parts
of the UK began to bite – demand more than tripled in some places. Some of the
busiest banks have been in Scotland, site of some of the worst weather and
lowest temperatures. A food bank in Ebbw Vale, south Wales, provided food to 118
families in December – up from 74 the previous month. During the same period,
demand for tinned food and drink from the Suffolk bank jumped from 29 to 197
The charity says initial feedback suggests there has been similar, if not
higher, demand for handouts in January, an increase it puts down to the rising
costs of heating homes.
There have been a raft of measures introduced in recent years to help people
cope with financial cost of cold weather, and over 12.3molder people will
benefit from winter fuel payments this year, totalling about £2.7bn. Already the
Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has paid out an additional £260m this
winter to families under the cold weather payment scheme, which grants £25 a
week to some vulnerable households when – as has happened across the UK – the
temperature falls to zero for seven consecutive days.
"As temperatures plummet, I don't want vulnerable people to feel left in the
cold," DWP minister Helen Goodman said recently. "The payments are automatic so
everyone entitled will get them and should not worry about turning up their
heating." But not every vulnerable family is entitled, and even those who
receive the payments complain they do not absorb the spike in bills.
Research by Age Concern has shown that, despite government relief, one in five
older people skip meals to save money for heating. Tonight the charity urged
ministers to do more to ease pressure forcing elderly people into the "cruel
choice" between food or warmth.
On Wednesday last week, Northamptonshire county council announced a serious case
review into the deaths of Jean and Derek Randall, a couple believed to be in
their 70s whose bodies were found in their frozen home. Their cause of death is
unclear but neighbours told a local radio station the couple were relying on a
single electric heater and the electric hob rings on their cooker for warmth.
"It's completely inappropriate in 21st-century Britain that pensioners should
experience such an ordeal and die such tragic deaths," said the couple's Labour
MP, Sally Keeble.
Chris Mould, director of the Trussell Trust, said people in poverty were more
likely to use expensive electric heaters and pre-payment gas meters. Aside from
higher bills, the Arctic climate has brought with it other expected costs, he
said. "We're seeing a lot of people who are in a crisis triggered by the cold
weather. Broken boilers. Broken cars. Things temporarily break down and cost
money, and these incidents can tip people into crisis. It's sort of sadly
The government's cold winter subsidies do not apply to Billen who, instead of
receiving income support, gets £140 in working tax credits plus child benefit.
Still, she said her frustration is directed at her energy supplier, Southern
When she struggled to pay a £500 bill last year, the company encouraged her to
sign up to a pre-payment meter that, she was told, would take a slice each time
she paid her bill in order to recoup the money she owed. A failure when the
machine was installed meant the debt was never paid, however, and Billen now
finds that, when she puts £10 in, Southern Electric automatically takes £7 to
pay the debt. That leaves £3, which pays for a few hours' heat. "I spent hours
on the phone to the call centre," she said. "I said to them, I'm expecting a
baby. I'm not working. I can't afford this. They basically said: 'Too bad'."
She was given a food bank voucher after explaining her predicament to her
midwife. "I loved the fact I could eat a meal without feeling guilty about not
spending the money on heating," she said.
A spokesperson for Scottish and Southern Energy, which owns Southern Electric,
encouraged anyone in Billen's position to contact them, and said it would
provide an "individual, tailor-made package" to help people keep warm.
Hours after the Guardian told the company it would feature Billen's story, she
received a call from the company. "They're coming as soon as they can to take
the meter out," she said. "They're lowering the repayment of existing debt to a
third of what it was. And I'm going to pay monthly. Really I'll end up paying a
hell of a lot less."
But not every family struggling to pay their energy bills can benefit from what
Billen thought was a brazen, though welcome, public relations stunt. Many feel
ignored; they say the nightly television news bulletins about travel chaos,
problems with gritters and school closures belie the more severe plight that
cold weather has brought to people in poverty.
Mark Ward, who manages the Salisbury food bank, said he had seen "much younger"
clients using it recently. . He recently delivered food to a young couple with a
baby in the nearby village of Dinton. All three were eating, sleeping and living
the single dowstairs room they could afford to heat.
Another beneficiary of the food bank, Donna Buxton, 38, a
partially blind mother from Great Bedwyn, had a similar story. "I've been
putting £30 a week in my meter and the heating wasn't keeping the place warm, so
I brought the mattress into the living room," she said. "Me and my 11-year-old
daughter, Libby, slept in there with two quilts and the cat."
A short walk from the Salisbury depot in Bermerton Heath, one of the poorest
areas in the market town, there are similar stories behind most front doors.
Lucy and Mark Mitchell, food bank recipients in their 20s, said they had taken
to sleeping in the same bed as their two young boys to keep warm.
Inside a cold flat on the edge of the estate, Mick Cutler, 56, an out-of-work
van driver, explained how his wife, Julie, and 10-year-old stepson were making
do with hot water bottles rather than radiators. They too have turned to the
bank for food.
"Really you're begging, aren't you?" he said. "But it's bloody hard to be honest
with you. I'm not too bad – I don't feel the cold as much as Julie and Matthew,"
he said. "He does go to bed with his clothes on sometimes. When he has a bath,
he wants to have the heating on, but I have to say 'no'. I feel guilty. How can
you tell a 10-year-old you can't keep him warm?"
Winding country lanes, village greens,
stone-built cottages ...
the British countryside
is seen as an idyllic place
and perhaps it is
for the commuters
and those rich enough to retire there.
the picture-postcard image
belies a life of poverty and hardship.
Stephen Moss investigates
Tuesday July 18, 2006
Karen Petford has helpfully brought along a copy of the Peak
Advertiser. Not because she wants me to look at the headlines of the week's big
stories - "Spectacular floral event planned for Bakewell parish church";
"Youlgrave children continue well-dressing tradition" - but because she thinks I
should study the property section and the job ads.
First, all those sturdy, desirable grey-brick cottages. In
Monyash, there's "an exceptionally pretty one-bedroomed cottage with delightful
outlook across on to the village pond and the church spire" - £162,500. In
Castleton - "located in a quiet little backwater just out of the centre of this
historic village, a charming, beautifully appointed, two-bedroomed,
double-fronted, stone-built cottage" - £199,950. Tideswell - "attractive,
stone-built, four-bedroomed detached property conveniently situated close to the
centre of this beautiful Peak District village" - £345,000.
Then, the less sturdy, less desirable jobs. Hope Valley College is looking for a
caretaker - £12,747 for a 37-hour week. The Peak District National Park
Authority seeks an office cleaner - "from £11,619 per year pro rata". The
Felicini pizza chain is recruiting staff for a new outlet in Bakewell; it
emphasises "employee discounts" as one of the attractions. Cleaners, carers, bar
staff, and not much else. Felicini's does promise "career development and
progression" and a Mrs Williams in Sheffield is offering great rewards for
"ambitious hairdressers" and "highly motivated stylists", but Petford's point is
well made - no matter how ambitious the hairdresser or progressive the
pizza-maker, none of this army of ill-paid service industry personnel will be
able to afford even the tiniest cottage.
"Round here it's all low-paid crap jobs," she says, "and you've got to try to
find £220,000 to buy your house with two bedrooms that are too small to put your
wardrobe in. The people who are buying houses here are commuters."
The defining characteristic of the Peak District is its proximity to the urban
sprawl of Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Nottingham - a green lung
in a wheezing body. Hence the sky-high house prices, the prevalence of second
homes, the number of locals forced to look for cheaper accommodation in Buxton,
Chesterfield and Sheffield, the distortions of local life.
Petford lives in the tourist village of Castleton in the Hope Valley, in the
shadow of Peveril Castle and close to the caverns where "Blue John" - a mineral
unique to the area which is used for making jewellery - is mined. She has made a
list of local facilities: 22 tourist shops, six pubs, four hotels, six cafes,
one small grocery shop. She calls the street filled with gift shops and cafes
"Blackpool Mile". Older residents recall the time when the village had "real"
shops - greengrocers, butchers, hardware stores, even a bank. Now the only
cashpoint is in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, charging £1.75 for a £50
withdrawal. Otherwise, there's a free cashpoint in the Co-op in Bradwell, three
miles away, and two banks in Tideswell, a further five miles on.
Petford, who was born in nearby Bamford and married a "Castleton lad", is, in
her understated way, a bit of a campaigner. She has worked part-time for the
Peak District Rural Deprivation Forum for eight years; has just helped to set up
a local food cooperative in Castleton that distributes fresh fruit and veg to
local residents for £2.50 a bag; she even posed for the cover of a recent report
from the Commission for Rural Communities that highlighted the deprivation that
lies behind the picture-postcard view of village life.
The cover is in some ways a fraud - with her home-made almond muffins and can-do
philosophy, Petford can hardly be classified as deprived. But it may have been
that the truly disadvantaged were unwilling to appear. "For reasons of pride or
just stoicism, people in the countryside don't want to advertise their
disadvantage," says Brian Wilson, director of thematic studies at the
Commission. "There's an element of keeping up appearances."
Wilson says many are in denial. "Almost half the people living in rural
communities tick the box that says there is no disadvantage in their area," he
says, "and yet we know that one in five households live below the government's
official low-income line." He says the image of rural life is so powerful that
the reality is often not allowed to intrude. "It's partly the rural idyll - the
view we all have that it's village greens, windy country lanes and roses round
the front door - and partly the fact that, by and large, you don't get big
concentrations of disadvantaged people, so it's not obvious to the eye in the
way that a rundown housing estate in an urban area is."
Castleton and the surrounding villages in the Hope Valley form one of five areas
surveyed for the report and the place I chose for my own exploration of village
life. Touristy Castleton, rough-and-ready Bradwell, more genteel Tideswell -
three villages which, in their different ways, exemplify the battle rural
Britain faces to accommodate itself to a changing, migratory world and create
sustainable communities in which the less wealthy are not marginalised.
Heather Jones, who lives in Bradwell (the village with the cashpoint, three
miles from Castleton) is one of those willing to own up to her disadvantage.
Recently separated from her husband, she and her two small children live in a
council house in the village. She says she gets by mainly on benefits but also
does part-time work in the village chip shop. She has A-levels, is very bright,
could be doing something more demanding than frying cod, but there just aren't
any jobs. "There's nothing nearby that would fit in with the children," she
says. "There are very few career opportunities unless I'm prepared to travel to
Sheffield. That's an hour added to the day and there's no childcare in the
village." But she puts up with the disadvantages, she says, because the village
is such a good place to bring up children - healthy, safe, with low crime and a
close sense of community.
Ian Rose, headmaster of Bradwell junior school, says he was surprised by the
level of deprivation when he moved from Manchester. "I came here with the
picture-postcard image of Derbyshire villages, but that's really something
that's preserved by the National Park authority. We have all the problems they
have on council estates in big cities. There are some people in the area who are
quite poor, and who struggle to pay for school trips and things like that. When
you talk to the children about what they have, they don't have very much."
He believes cultural deprivation can be as damaging for children as economic,
especially among those in families without cars - a lifeline in rural
communities where trains are infrequent and buses expensive. "We've taken
children of 10 or 11 on trips into Sheffield [16 miles away] when it's been only
about the third or fourth time they've been there," he says.
Rose doubts the indices by which school funding is allocated. In Bradwell, he
says, aggregated figures are misleading because there are plenty of wealthy
retired people living cheek by jowl with poor families. The locals who are
likely to have children at school are much more likely to be poor; averages are
Because of the unusually high percentage of "social" housing in the village,
Bradwell has a relatively large number of families and young people with
somewhat tenuous means of support. "There's a big cross-section in Bradwell,"
says Jones, "the biggest cross-section of any of the villages around here. There
are a lot of different people and, on the whole, they're all accepted. Sometimes
in villages, if you are that little bit different and you don't fit the
stereotype, you stick out and it's harder to get accepted."
Alison Benefield, who lives in the village and runs a community theatre that
tours local schools and care homes, says she has found Bradwell welcoming,
unlike more insular places that stick to the old rubric that only when you have
"three generations in the graveyard" can you be classed as a local.
"I came and helped with the panto and that was a great way to meet people," she
says. "I'm accepted and I'm not talked about - well, not to my face, anyway. I
go into Castleton or Hathersage [a village further down the valley] and I'll be
looked at when I'm in a pub. Here, I'm not, so I think I've chosen the right
Benefield is at the centre of what might be called bohemian Bradwell, although
she is reluctant to accept the label. After much prompting, she agrees that by
coming to live and work in a village, she is making a statement - "in a very
low-key way". "I never saw myself moving out of Manchester, but now I'm here I
don't see myself moving back. I've decided that I don't want to rejoin the rat
race. I was in Manchester for 15 years, trying to do my drama and getting
nowhere, but out here I'm getting funding from the council to do the work I want
to do." Not quite enough funding, though. She has to clean to make ends meet.
Lucy Ridley is another member of alternative Bradwell. "Sorry about the mess,
but this is the way we live," she says when she invites me in to her crowded,
toy-strewn living room. "Everything you know is wrong" says a sticker on the
front door. She has a teenage daughter, a two-year-old son and another child due
imminently. Their two-bedroomed housing association home is just about
sufficient for the present - and better than the caravan they used to live in.
"Housing is a pain in the butt round here," she says. "Our landlady was selling
the flat we were in, and finding somewhere else to live was monumental trouble.
Rents are mentally high, and landlords and estate agents can charge what they
Ridley used to live in Liverpool but left when her daughter was four. "She was
getting too streetwise far too young, and we didn't want to live in the city any
more." She loves the country, but finds it tricky to get by financially. "You're
much more skint. There are more jobs in the city and transport and childcare are
also difficult in the country."
Whereas Castleton is a tourist "honeypot", as the man in the recently built
visitor centre likes to describe it, Bradwell is a working (and, to a large
extent, working-class) village. In Castleton, the kids on street corners are all
on school trips; in Bradwell, they are all from the village and desperate for
something to do. There is a touch of antipathy between the villages. One
Castletonian tells me Bradwell is a "black spot"; for their part, Bradwellians
see Castleton as a confection, a mock-community.
One of Castleton's problems, however, is that these days the honey is rather
thinly spread. "We've never really recovered since foot and mouth," says Tony
Cosic, who runs the local post office. Tourism is flat, yet the trappings of
tourist success stop it functioning as one of the sustainable villages that
Brian Wilson says his commission hopes to encourage - a mix of generations,
people who both live and work in the village, a decent range of local services,
Equally, though, does Bradwell - as its residents like to think - display those
virtues? There is one big local employer: the cement works which has towered,
white and cathedral-like, over the valley for more than 70 years. It is loathed
by the National Park authority, which thinks it spoils the views, but loved by
locals, because it is the one industry in the area that pays well. There are,
though, far fewer jobs than there used to be, and many are now contract-based.
One local man, who prefers not to be named, tells me there is a poverty of
expectation among young people in the village: too few, even among the brighter
children, want to go on to university. For the villages, that is, in any case, a
double-edged sword: the ones who do go on to higher education probably won't
come back; the ones who don't and choose to stay are likely to get dead-end
jobs, or no jobs at all.
"Village life is not what it used to be, says Stuart Froggatt, the articulate,
ear-ringed landlord of the White Hart in Bradwell. "A lot of villages around
here have become bedrooms of Sheffield. I grew up not far from here, and can
remember when this village had lots of pubs, a fruit and veg shop, a baker's, a
joiner's shop. That's all disappeared in the past 20 years."
Froggatt spent a long period in the navy and has only just come home. He tempers
his view of the decline of village life with the hope that the worst may be
over. He has, after all, returned to make his life here and invested in a pub -
the old hub of village life that has itself taken a battering over the past
couple of decades.
The notion that village life - or the lack of it - might be ripe for a revival
is an attractive one. The long decades of rural depopulation are over, and there
is now reckoned to be a net annual movement of 100,000 people from urban to
rural Britain. A lot of the incomers are wealthy - far wealthier than those who
traditionally lived in villages. But how will they use their money: to boost
village life or to insulate themselves from it? Will people move to villages and
market towns to sleep or to live? Will they shop at the local Co-op (or co-op),
or at a distant Tesco or via the internet? Will they use local schools? Will the
commuting or retired "haves" integrate with the indigenous "have nots"? And can
the plight of the latter be eased by the provision of affordable housing and
There are a few straws in the Derbyshire wind. In nearby Litton, locals
(including incomers) have started their own food shop, the sole grocery store in
the village. Castleton is about to get a cinema club to go with its fruit and
veg co-op - food for the brain as well as the stomach. And at a group of
converted farm buildings at Blackwell, near Tideswell, Jen Bower is running the
Farming Life Centre, to provide a focus for local farmers, who are socially
isolated as well as economically depressed. Bower's is a defiant ethic of
"In villages, you have to provide services for yourself," says Bower. Her
organisation aims to be a network for farmers to meet, swap information and
develop ways to diversify their farms to provide extra income. "You've got to
look at farming as a business if you want to keep that way of life," she
explains. "We're trying to work with the farming community to help them see the
ways in which they can be sustainable into the future in the face of all the
problems that are being thrown at them. They have to accept the world is
changing and then work with that, rather than against it."
At its heart, the challenge is, after a century of decline and dispossession,
whether villages can be made to work again. And much of that will be up to the
villagers themselves refusing to accept predictions either of their demise or of
a dormitory future.
It starts not
far beyond the centre of the world - the Bank of England, the stock exchange,
and a regular jungle of other banks and financial establishments. This golden
shore is almost washed by the black waves of east London. "Don't go there
without a guide," said the denizens of the West End, "and don't take much money
with you." Well, that is decidedly putting it too strongly.
Piccadilly or Fleet Street as a worse haunt of savagery than the Isle of Dogs or
Limehouse of ill repute. Nothing happened to me, but I came back feeling
depressed, although I have been through the abominations of the harbours at
Marseilles and Palermo. The streets are very unsightly with their filthy
cobbles, their swarms of children on the pavement, their drunken seamen, their
Philanthropic Shelters; and with their stench of scorched rags.
Yet I have seen worse places. But it is not that. The horrible thing in east
London is not what can be seen and smelt, but its unbounded and unredeemable
extent. Elsewhere poverty and ugliness exist merely as a rubbish-heap between
two houses, like an unsavoury nook, a cesspool. But here are miles and miles of
grimy houses, hopeless streets, a superfluity of children, gin palaces and
Miles and miles, from Peckham to Hackney, from Walworth to Barking, Bermondsey,
Rotherhithe, Poplar, Bromley, Stepney, Bow, and Bethnal Green, the quarters
inhabited by navvies, Jews, Cockneys, and stevedores, poverty-stricken and
downtrodden people, intersected by dirty channels of deafening traffic.
And in the south, in the north-west, in the north-east again the same thing,
miles of grimy houses, factories, gasometers, railway lines, clayey patches of
waste ground, warehouses for goods and warehouses for human beings.
There are assuredly uglier quarters in all parts of the world; even squalor is
here on a higher level, and the poorest beggar is not clad in rags; but good
heavens, the human beings, the millions of human beings who live in these short,
uniform, joyless streets, which teem on the plain of London. And that is the
distressing thing about the East End - there is too much of it. Not even the
devil would venture to say: if you will, I shall destroy this city, and in three
days I will build it, not so grimy, not so mechanical, not so inhuman and bleak.
If he were to say that, perhaps I would fall down and worship him.
· The Czech playwright is best known as author of RUR:
Robots, which coined the word robot
[On Monday last week we reprinted a leader deploring criticism of scholarships
for poor children to secondary schools. These are two reactions.]
Sir - The real difficulty is not the social or pecuniary inferiority of the
elementary boy, but his enormous moral inferiority. Most of the other boys that
come to us have a very definite idea that certain actions and thoughts are
"caddish" or "bad form" or "blackguardly." The knowledge of such terms help a
master immensely. Their reasoning may be defective, but it is an incalculable
advantage to feel that, if once you can convince a small boy that a certain
action is a "blackguard" thing to do, that only a "hopeless cad" would think a
certain thing, more than half your battle is over.
Now I have been dealing with a certain proportion of elementary boys for some
years, and I have failed to find any parallel idea or word. I have to begin de
novo. Your readers may hold up their hands in righteous indignation, but the sad
truth is there for me and others that I know of my profession.
The virtues of the elementary boy are industry and obedience, which are, in our
opinion, secondary virtues for a boy. For cribbing, meanness, cowardice, cruelty
he has just as much feeling of abhorrence as for unpunctuality - perhaps rather
Sir - I gather that it is with regret that you have noted the exclusion of Board
School Boys from the University College at Hampstead - this is with no regard to
the feelings of the paying boys in question. I wonder whether you have ever
considered the matter from the side of a gentleman forced to come into daily
contact with the innate vulgarity of the lower orders.
Is it not more probable that the sons of gentlemen will be levelled down rather
than the sons of Pork Butchers levelled up by continual daily contact. The
lessons of the gutter are more easily learnt than the traditions of caste.
The fact that by keeping particular secondary and Public Schools a reserve for a
particular class keeps the higher walks of life in the professions and public
services a preserve for the same class, is surely a great argument in its
favour. The lower classes never were a Governing class and why should the master
sit side by side with the servant.
Public School Boy, Kensington, London
(Most people will be inclined to think that if his state of mind were to be
taken as exemplifying the results of the system, nobody need regret not having
passed through it. - Ed. 'Guard'.)
How prolific of vice the Deansgate quarter is, a few facts and figures will
painfully demonstrate. There are 151 common lodging-houses, affording
accommodation for 3,224 persons. There are also 46 houses registered as houses
of ill fame, and 73 as the known resort of thieves.
In one house, we saw no fewer than six card sharpers, all of whom had been many
times in prison, and who were evidently engaged in the concoction of some new
It was a picture worthy of Teniers. The closely gathered heads, of villainous
expression and many shades of dirt, lit by the fire and one guttering candle,
were quite worthy of the Dutch master; and we found ourselves involuntarily
criticising it as a work of art, till a strong oath woke us up to the reality of
But the most startling feature of Deansgate is the enormous number of its
ginshops, its public-houses, and its singing saloons. Here is a place opening
out of the main thoroughfare. It is a ginshop and a singing saloon.
It was crowded with men and women - not respectable artizans taking their wives
for a little outing, but young men scarcely of age, chiefly apprentices to
trades, with here and there a young man from a warehouse, who, with a short
stick, short jacket, and short hat, looks quite as great a snob as he thinks
himself a gentleman. The women were of Deansgate.
There is a sodden, suffocating air of would-be gaiety in the whole thing, which
is most intensely depressing. Song followed song in wearisome monotony. It was
only when some particularly rampant chorus could be evoked that anything like a
sense of animation exhibited itself.
Not far away is another singing saloon, a saloon boasting a drop scene and
proscenium. A grey, dirty, blind old man is strumming away at a cracked piano,
and a tolerable voice is singing, with considerable taste, an air from Don
His vocal efforts were not much applauded. They ranged much too high and he was
succeeded by a faded, vulgar female, who brought down the house with innuendoes.
A box served as a green-room also. How proud the young fools were of this
distinction; the entree to the green-room at the opera never sent the hearts of
young shells bounding with more glee. As for the singing, it was admirably
criticised by a slightly-inebriated habituee: "Anything," says he, "is good
enough for a drunken man, but this is a'most too bad for that."
Style-street and Back Mount-street
run parallel to each other, but Back Mount-street is on a much higher level than
Style-street, consequently the houses are built over one another. Opening out of
Style-street, on the left hand coming townwards, between the houses, are here
and there narrow entries.
There is only one outlet to these, and in the half-dark places thus formed are
four privies in such a condition that it is almost impossible to enter them. The
floor is a flood of urine and a mass of ordure.
The ashpit is overflowing with decaying vegetable refuse, and rendered more than
usually disgusting by receiving the filth from Back Mount-street as well. What
ventilation there is here is into the street, and immediately under the windows
of inhabited dwellings. In order to exhaust at once the horrors of this place,
we will go to Back Mount-street and look at the second storey of these latrines.
Here, to enter them, we descend into a cellar passage, and find a low range of
privies with not a door nor a seat amongst them; often, too, with out the stone
support on which the seat rested; and to add to all these horrors comes up the
reeking stench from those below.
Our courage requires the aid of brandy, and our nostrils that of strong tobacco;
yet this is all the accommodation afforded for 11 houses, in which dwell
well-nigh 200 people. Very bitter and very deep is the outcry of the poor who
are compelled to live here — live here, too, from year end to year end — at this
enforced indecency; and, indeed, we learned to consider those as the most decent
people who openly used the public street.
We have not done with this fever pit yet. Over it people live! Yes, there are
houses over this, and the stench from this reeking mass of festering filth is
the air they breathe, in which they sleep by night, and which poisons the little
food they get by day.
We go into a house in Mount-street. On the ground floor, over the entrance to
these latrines is a small room, occupied by a man, his wife, and their child. It
is bedroom, kitchen, parlour, and all; and the wife and child must spend almost
all their time in this atmosphere — an atmosphere, 'which is enough to knock you
down of a morning,' as a visitor there says, and which even now, when the fire
is burning and the door open, is much too strong for even our hardened lungs and
nostrils. Up stairs more people live, and up stairs more stench goes, and fever
Abraham Goldsmid won over society
through his charitable
and financial support for the nation
during the Napoleonic Wars.
financial scandal in 1810
led him to commit suicide.
THE entertainments given by Mr Abraham Goldsmid, at his fine
seat at Morden on Friday last, formed a scene of the most splendid hospitality.
All that taste could suggest, or wealth provide, was prepared to do honour to
the illustrious visitors. The Prince of Wales, with the Dukes of Kent and
Cambridge, and several persons of the first rank and distinction, were among Mr
Goldsmid’s guests at this superb festival.
At seven o’clock, dinner was served to about fifty persons, and the table
exhibited a rare display of abundant delicacies and culinary excellence. Several
appropriate and loyal toasts were drank; and on the proposition to drink the
health of the Prince, his Royal Highness returned his thanks in the most
In a few minutes the Prince rose again, and said that when he informed the
company that he was about to propose the health of one of the best men living,
they would all anticipate that it was Mr Abraham Goldsmid, who was associated
with a band of brothers, all benevolent like himself. Mr Goldsmid had not only a
heart to feel for the woes of others, but a hand always stretched out to relieve
them. Added to this, he knew him to be the tried friend of this country; for he
had done the State some service, and they knew it, and was ever zealous for the
glory and prosperity of the nation.