Dorset is the UK's best place to live

Sarah Coles
The Cobb, Lyme Regis, Dorset, England
The Cobb, Lyme Regis, Dorset, England

Dorset has been named the best place to live in the UK - in a study that looked at essential services like education, emergency services, planning and health. Meanwhile, Humberside emerged as the worst.

The study, by value comparison platform B.heard, looked at government statistics and public opinion surveys to put together a full picture of vital services in each region. It found high marks across the board for Dorset - including the third highest rating for people's satisfaction with GPs and the fourth greatest proportion of schools rated as Outstanding.

Dorset is a regular feature in lists of the best places to live - partly because of the long life expectancy and good health of its inhabitants, their relative affluence, and the beauty of the area. Given that it includes the swanky seaside suburb of Sandbanks, it was hardly going to be the kind of place where services are over-stretched by a large number of people living in poverty.

North Yorkshire came a close second to Dorset in this story. It boasts the lowest crime rate in England, and the highest satisfaction with GPs. However, it performed poorly when it came to the number of fire staff per person - and came 16th out of 38 for schools. The rest of the top 10 includes Gloucestershire, Surrey, Cheshire, Northumbria, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Cumbria and Warwickshire.

Down at the other end of the league tables, Humberside was named as the worst region for essential services - coming second worst for schools and third worst for number of fire staff.

This was followed by Northamptonshire, Essex, the West Midlands, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Kent, London and Lincolnshire.

Londoners were listed as most at risk of becoming a victim of crime, with 84 offences per 1,000 people. It also had the lowest rate of patient satisfaction with GPs, and was ranked second worst at providing for homeless people. London's schools were its saving grace, with the greatest proportion of schools receiving Ofsted's highest rating.

Does it matter?

As a list of the 'best' places in the country, it's worth pointing out that it's not perfect. It's a comprehensive view of services, but that isn't all that matters to people. There's the question of wellbeing, and quality of life. There are also issues of income and affordability.

If you were to add in the affordability of property, for example, Dorset would have struggled to come out on top. A study by the Halifax looked into the least affordable rural areas in the UK, and named East Dorset as the ninth least affordable and North Dorset as the third least affordable.

As a list of the best services, however, this really does matter. The B.heard study also found that 61% of people don't think they can have any influence over how their local services are run. They think the only options are to put up with it, or move on.

B.heard CEO Oscar Vickerman points out: "The majority of people believe they simply don't have a voice when it comes to how their local services are run. The first step to address this is to give everyone a clear picture of the standard of service they are receiving."

If your area scores poorly in this study, therefore, this isn't an insult - or a lack of understanding about all the things that make the area great - it's a wake-up call. It's a demonstration that the services in your area are not up to snuff, and the local councillors, MPs and public servants need to be put under pressure by people in the area, to ensure they make vital improvements.

10 best places to live

1) Dorset
2) North Yorkshire
3) Gloucestershire
4) Surrey
5) Cheshire
6) Northumbria
7) Hampshire
8) Hertfordshire
9) Cumbria
10) Warwickshire

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