UK regions among the poorest in Europe


Sandcastles on Summerleaze Beach, Bude, Cornwall,

Poverty and social exclusion are rising in Britain - and Brits are now more likely than the average European to be at risk of either. New statistics show that 24% of Britain is at risk of poverty - putting us way behind leaders such as France and the Netherlands. The figures also show that an alarming 31% of children in this country are at risk from poverty - compared to around half that rate in Finland, Denmark and Sweden.

Even more worrying, some British regions are at extreme risk - listed among the five poorest areas in Western Europe.

The statistics, from Eurostat, calculated that on average in the EU area, there's a 23% chance of falling into poverty or social exclusion. The researchers factored in what would happen if a household was faced with a sudden unexpected expense, at which point more than 40% risked poverty.

The countries which looked after their vulnerable people most effectively were The Netherlands, followed by the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Denmark and France - in each of these areas fewer than 19.1% of the population is at risk from poverty.

At the other end of the spectrum, Bulgarians run the most risk of poverty at 49.3%, followed by Romania at 41.7%, Latvia at 36.2% and Greece at 34.6%.

The UK sits around the middle of the table, with marginally less risk than Portugal and marginally more than Estonia. However, this report sits alongside a second which explores income in different regions around the EU - and here's where the really worrying statistics emerge.

Regional concerns

The second piece of research compared incomes across the EU - and took into account prices in order to assess purchasing power. Britain as a whole has an average income of £23,300 - ahead of the EU average of £20,750. However, this figure is massively distorted by incomes in Central London, where the average person is on a staggering £71,000 a year.

This makes Londoners the wealthiest group in the whole of Europe - followed by Luxembourg, Brussels, Hamburg in Germany, Oslo in Norway and Bratislava in Slovakia.

However, it also reveals that in some areas of the UK, incomes are well below the national average. Eurostat found that the lowest incomes were in West Wales and The Valleys - which was in the top five poorest areas in Western Europe. This was followed by Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. In these two areas, average annual incomes are, below £14,300, which make them 37% and 36% lower than the EU average.

They are followed by the Tees Valley and Durham, Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire, and Lancashire, which are between 34% and 30% lower than the EU average.

The Daily Mail reported that these areas are poorer than any region in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Finland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria. And overall only eight regions of the UK are richer than the EU average.

The Aberdeen Evening Express highlighted that outside of London, one part of Britain had bucked this trend - the North East of Scotland. It was listed the 16 richest place in Europe.

In some parts of the country, clearly incomes are at fault. However, in the vast majority of cases, the problems with purchasing power are also due to much higher prices.

Until last month, wages had been outstripped by the rising cost of living for the previous six years. According to the TUC, workers are on average £40 a week worse off than they were in 2010, leaving households unable to pay for the bare necessities, and an increasing number turning to borrowing to cover things like groceries and the mortgage or rent.

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