Press release:

Edinburgh best place to live in UK, according to quality of life index

countryside-uk-summer-season
  • Low crime rates, affordable living costs, high salaries and fast broadband propel Edinburgh up the charts to become the best place to live – taking over from Solihull
  • Bradford and Hull are officially the worst places, let down by low disposable income, low employment, high rent and crowded schools
  • Victory for Scotland: more than half of Scottish regions have improved their Quality of Life ranking since 2013 – the top seven biggest climbers are all in Scotland
  • English doldrums: 16 out of the 20 biggest falling regions are in England
  • Living costs: Nottingham pays the most in council tax yet has the second lowest disposable income in the UK – while energy bills are highest in Northern Ireland and lowest in Scotland
  • Hardest working: 41% of people in West London work more than 45 hours a week compared to 15% in the Orkney Islands – but West Londoners are also paid the most
  • Longest lives: women in Buckinghamshire live the longest, as do men in Surrey –while Glaswegians have the shortest life expectancy.

Edinburgh is officially the best place to live in the UK, Bradford is the worst, and Scottish regions make the biggest gain in rankings, according to the latest Quality of Life index from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service. Low crime rates, affordable living costs, high average salaries and fast broadband all contribute to Edinburgh’s position at the top.

The uSwitch.com study assessed 138 local areas (NUTS3 regions) for 26 different factors including salaries, disposable household income and the cost of essential goods, such as fuel, food and energy bills, as well as lifestyle factors such as working hours, life expectancy and hours of sunshine, to provide a complete picture of the quality of life in each region.

Edinburgh’s meteoric rise to the top, jumping 97 places since the last Quality of Life Index in 2013 and knocking Solihull off its perch in the process, is due to a number of factors. It has the lowest reported crime rate in the UK, cheap petrol and energy bills, high average salaries of £29,588 and disposable household income of £20,083, as well as fast average broadband download speeds of 30Mbs.

Edinburgh wasn’t the only Scottish region to see a huge gain in its Quality of Life ranking, as the top seven biggest ranking risers are in Scotland. In fact, 13 of the 20 regions that saw the biggest gains in their Quality of Life rankings are located north of the border. The region of Inverclyde, East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire, in South Western Scotland, has enjoyed the biggest ranking gain, rising 102 places from 112th to 10th place, thanks in part to some of the lowest household costs in the UK. And North Lanarkshire, also in South Western Scotland, has seen its position climb 98 places since 2013.

But, while everything is bonnie in Scotland, life is a little less rosy south of the border. 16 out of the 20 biggest falling regions are English, with both Bradford and Hull, both in the Yorkshire and Humber region, rooted at the foot of the UK Quality of Life Index.

According to the report, people in Bradford have amongst the lowest gross disposable household incomes of £13,654 a year, yet pay one of the highest average weekly rents of £92.60. The employment rate is low at 65% and there is also a lower than average life expectancy at 77 years and seven months for men and 81 years and four months for women. To top it all, the area suffers from crowded primary schools and just 44% of pupils achieved five GCSEs at A-C grades, at Key Stage 4.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Bradford residents. Low essential costs such as energy, food and council tax, together with cheaper house prices and higher than average broadband speeds, ease the pain a little.

Table 1: Top Ten Regions in UK Quality of Life Index 2015

2015 ranking NUTS3 region  2013 ranking Change in rank position since 2013
1 Edinburgh, City of, Eastern Scotland 98 +97
2 Solihull, West Midlands 1 -1
3 Hertfordshire, East of England 3 0
4 Northumberland, North East 8 +4
5 South Lanarkshire, South Western Scotland 60 +55
6 Berkshire, South East 9 +3
7 Darlington, North East 25 +18
8 North Lanarkshire, South Western Scotland 106 +98
9 York, Yorkshire and Humber 15 +6
10 Inverclyde, East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire, South Western Scotland 112 +102

Table 2: Bottom Ten Regions in UK Quality of Life Index 2015

2015 ranking NUTS3 region 2013 ranking Change in rank position since 2013
138 Bradford, Yorkshire and The Humber 95 -43
137 Kingston Upon Hull, City of, Yorkshire and The Humber 130 -7
136 North of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland 68 -68
135 Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Highlands and Islands 120 -15
134 West and South of Northern Ireland 59 -75
133 Blackpool, North West 117 -16
132 Devon CC, South West 86 -46
131 Central Valleys, West Wales and The Valleys 121 -10
130 East of Northern Ireland 39 -91
129 South Teesside, North East 93 -36

Income – West London (Inner London West) retains the title of Britain’s richest region with average full time salaries of £35,464 and an average annual gross disposable household income (GDHI) of £39,602 – more than three times higher than disposable household incomes in Leicester (£11,739) and Nottingham (£11,757).

Employment – Liverpool has the lowest employment rate of any region in the UK at 59%, compared to 89% in the Orkney Islands and 82% in central Bedfordshire. Meanwhile, West London is the hardest working region in the country, with 41% working 45 hours a week or more, compared to 15% of those living in the Orkney Islands.

Living costs – Despite having the second lowest gross household disposable income in the country (£11,757), Nottingham city dwellers pay the highest council tax rate (£1,676 a year). Belfast pays the lowest rate of £819 a year, less than half that paid in Nottingham. However, people in Belfast are hit with the highest average energy bills of £1,850 a year, compared to bills of £1,209 in Scotland.

Crime – Edinburgh has the lowest rate of reported crime in the UK, followed by Powys in East Wales. Northern Ireland has the highest rates of reported crime, with Belfast the most crime-ridden region in the UK, followed by the East of Northern Ireland region.

Life expectancy – Women in Buckinghamshire have a life expectancy of 85 years old – compared to those in Glasgow with a life expectancy of just 78 and a half. Meanwhile, men in Surrey have a life expectancy of 81 and a half – compared to just 73 years old in Glasgow.

To see further data from the Quality of Life Index click here.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “Edinburgh has long been a city that’s inspired; a vibrant city with striking architecture and a world famous festival, all surrounded by stunning scenery. Now it’s official – Edinburgh is the best place to live in the UK. With low crime rates, high wages and affordable living costs, it’s not just the history and cultural attractions that are drawing people to Scotland’s capital.

“And while Edinburgh sits proudly at the top of the spire, Scotland as a whole is the star performer, with its regions easily making the biggest climbs in the ranks this year. Contrast that with the biggest fallers in the rankings, the majority of which are regions in England.

“And spare a thought for the Yorkshire and the Humber region, which has earned the unenviable title of worst place to live in the UK, with Bradford and Hull rooted to the bottom of the Index.

“What this report reveals is the vast differences in the quality of life that many people across the UK are experiencing. Despite a buoyant UK economy, millions of people in this country aren’t feeling the benefits. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that it’s getting better for everyone out there. The reality is that millions of British households are still facing huge financial pressures, with wages barely covering higher living costs. And with talk of interest rates rising, any hope that those financial pressures might ease seems a forlorn one.

“It’s more important than ever that households take an honest look at their household budgets and see if there are savings that can be made. Simply by switching energy suppliers on a regular basis, hundreds of pounds could be shaved off the annual bill. Our quality of life is important and even minor changes could have a positive impact on our standard of living.”

For more information visit www.uSwitch.com or call 0800 093 06 07.

— ends —

Notes to editors

Methodology

The uSwitch UK Quality of Life Index is a comprehensive assessment of relative performance by 138 of the UK’s Local Authorities (within England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) against a wide-ranging set of 26 measures (detailed sources used are below).  Data for all measures was obtained from reliable public sources, and ranked in “Best to Worst” order.  These were then weighted according to our assessment of the relative importance of each measure to Quality of Life, and added together to obtain a “Total Weighted Score” for each Local Authority.  Finally, each score was converted into an index, with the average Total Weighted Score from across the UK being given a Quality Of Life Index of 100.  The higher the Index, the higher the Quality Of Life.  The lower the Index, the lower the Quality Of Life.  Data collection was conducted and analysed by Research Insight (www.research-insight.com), an independent marketing research consultancy, July – September 2015.

The detailed methodology used for the uSwitch UK Quality of Life Index is as follows:

  1. Data sources were researched and identified for each measure down to the Local Authority areas (defined by the Office of National Statistics as “NUTS3 areas”).
  1. In the vast majority of cases we were able to identify data for all 138 NUTS3 areas from a single source. Where we were not able to identify a source for a measure for all 138 NUTS3 areas, we used one of three approaches to estimate missing values:
  2. Where we were able to find data for some, but not all, NUTS3 areas within a region of the UK, we calculated the average for NUTS3 areas for which we had found data within that region and used that average for the missing values.
  3. Where we were unable to find data for complete regions of the UK, we calculated the average for all NUTS3 areas for which we had found data and used that average for the missing values.
  4. Where we were only able to find data at a regional level (eg for the West Midlands), we applied the regional value to all NUTS3 areas within that region (eg Solihull, Warwickshire, Shropshire etc).
  5. For each measure we then calculated a NUTS3 rank order for each measure, and gave a value of 138 to the “best” area, and a value of 1 to the “worst” area.
  1. These values were then weighted, based on our assessment of the relative importance of each measure to Quality of Life. To maximise the effect of measures with “High Importance”, rank order values for measures judged “High Importance” were multiplied by 5, rank order values for measures judged “Medium Importance” were multiplied by 3, and rank order values for measures judged “Low Importance” were multiplied by 1 (ie remained unchanged).
  1. A weighted total was then created, by adding all 26 weighted values together, and a TOTAL WEIGHTED SCORE was calculated.
  1. The final step was to create a rank order based on the Total Weighted Scores for each NUTS3 area.
  1. The Quality of Life Index therefore places all 138 NUTS3 areas studied into a comparable rank order, based on a comprehensive weighted analysis of the 26 measures studied.

The following data sources were used for the 26 measures included in the uSwitch UK Quality of Life Index (sources are stated for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, respectively):

  1. Employment Rate: 2014, % of age 16-64 in employment
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): High value
    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/datasets-and-tables/index.html?pageSize=50&sortBy=none&sortDirection=none&newquery=unemployment+rates+by+NUTS3
  • http://www.detini.gov.uk/internet_dc_tables_2013_16_-_64.xlsx?rev=0
  1. Average weekly working hours full time; 31 to 48 hours worked (2014, in % of people)
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-337425
  1. Average weekly working hours full time; 49 or more hours worked (2014, in % of people)
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-337425
  1. Average gross income: full time workers median weekly gross pay – workplace based (2014 – per week)
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): High value
  • https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/query/select/getdatasetbytheme.asp?opt=3&th
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/regional-trends/regional-economic-analysis/sub-regional-productivity–february-2015/srlprodnuts01.xls
  • http://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.uk/public/Theme.aspx?themeNumber=18&themeName=Labour%20Market
  • https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/query/select/getdatasetbytheme.asp?opt=3&th
  1. Disposable income: Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) per head at current prices – 2013 (in GBP)”
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): High value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/regional-accounts/regional-household-income/regional-gross-disposable-household-income–gdhi–2013/rft-nuts1.xls

6. Education: Number of pupils per state-funded primary school as on 2014.

  • Importance to QOL: Medium importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics- january-2015
  • https://statswales.wales.gov.uk/Catalogue/Education-and-Skills/Schools-and-Teachers/Schools-Census/Pupil-Level-Annual-School-Census/Pupils
  • http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/dspupcensus/dspupcensus
  • http://www.deni.gov.uk/index/facts-and-figures-new/education- statistics/32_statistics_and_research- numbersofschoolsandpupils_pg/32_statistics_and_research- northernirelandsummarydata_pg.htm
  1. Exam Results: % of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 achieving 5+ A*-C grades inc. English & Mathematics at GCSE and equivalents in 2013-14.
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  • https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/410765/SF 
xlsx
  • http://gov.wales/statistics-and-research/examination-results/?lang=en
  • http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School- 
Education/leavedestla/follleavedestat/attainmentandleavers1314
  • http://www.deni.gov.uk/index/facts-and-figures-new/education- 
statistics/32_statistics_and_research- numbersofschoolsandpupils_pg/32_statistics_and_research- northernirelandsummarydata_pg.htm
  1. House prices: Mean House prices for 2013 in GBP
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-392111
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-370972
  1. Average Weekly Rent – 2014
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/385119/LT 
xlsx
  • https://statswales.wales.gov.uk/Catalogue/Housing/Social-Housing-Stock-and- 
Rents/totalstockatsocialrent-by-area-accommodationtype
  • http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Housing- 
Regeneration/HSfS/LAincomeandexpenditure2013-14/HARTablesNov13
  1. Crime rates: Overall crime rate (CSEW Comparator) 2014, Overall crime rates (BCS comparator), per 1,000 persons”
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/crime-stats/crime-statistics/year-ending-december-2014/rft- 
zip
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/crime-stats/crime-statistics/year-ending-december-2014/rft- 
zip
  • http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2014/11/6350/downloads
  • http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0046/00467392.xls
  • http://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.uk/public/Theme.aspx?themeNumber=131&themeName=Cri 
me%20and%20Justice
  1. “Mortality rates: All-age all cause mortality rate 2011-13, rate per 100,000 persons”
  • Importance to QOL: Medium importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77- 370972
http://www.sns.gov.uk/Downloads/DownloadHome.aspx
  1. Male life expectancy at birth 2011-13
  • Importance to QOL: Medium importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77- 
370972
  • http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/life- 
expectancy/life-expectancy-in-scottish-areas/time-series-data https://www.gov.uk/government/…data/…/20140624_Full_Dataset.xlsx
  1. Female life expectancy at birth 2011-13
  • Importance to QOL: Medium importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77- 
370972
  • http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/life- 
expectancy/life-expectancy-in-scottish-areas/time-series-data
  • http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/life- 
expectancy/life-expectancy-in-scottish-areas/time-series-data
  1. Council Tax rate: Band D 2014-16
  • Importance to QOL: Low importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/council-tax-levels-set-by-local-authorities-in- 
england-2014-to-2015
  • https://statswales.wales.gov.uk/Catalogue/Local-Government/Finance/Council- 
Tax/Levels/averagebanddcounciltax-by-billingauthority
  • http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Local-Government- 
Finance/DatasetsCouncilTax
  • http://www.dsdni.gov.uk/index/stats_and_research/stats-publications/stats-housing- 
publications/housing_stats/northern_ireland_housing_statistics_2013-14.htm
  1. Average dual fuel bills 2014
  • Importance to QOL: Medium importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • Data provided by uSwitch for England, Wales and Scotland
  • Northern Ireland values were calculated by adjusting the average bill for England by the 
ratio between average bills for Scotland and England as stated by ONS in the following 2014 report ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/household-income/expenditure-on-household- fuels/2002—2012/full-report–household-energy-spending-in-the-uk–2002–2012.html .
  1. Car insurance premiums: Average yearly expenditure of all households on Motor Insurance – 2012
  • Importance to QOL: Low importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-spending/family-spending/2014-edition/rft-a35-final- 
xls
  1. Annual home insurance spend: Average yearly expenditure of all households on Structure & Contents – 2012
  • Importance to QOL: Low importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-spending/family-spending/2014-edition/rft-a35-final- 2013.xl
  1. Petrol prices (in pence-GBP per litre) – 2015
  • Importance to QOL: Low importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • http://www.petrolprices.com
  • http://www.consumercouncil.org.uk/cost-of-living-consumer-tips/fuel-price- 
watch/#th4_strabane
  1. Food prices: Food & non-alcoholic drinks; Average weekly household expenditure; 2011- 13
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-spending/family-spending/2014-edition/rft-a35-final- 
xls
  1. Broadband speed : Average Download Speed, Mbit/second (June/July 2014)
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  1. http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/infrastructure/infrastructure-2014/downloads/ (“Fixed Local Authority” dataset)Average annual sunshine: hours; 2014 averages
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  • http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/datasets
  1. CO2 levels / pollution / air quality: Estimated per capita emissions of CO2 2012 (tonnes per head)
  • Importance to QOL: Medium importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/local-authority-emissions-estimates
  1. New car registrations per ‘000 population
  • Importance to QOL: Medium importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  • ://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/veh01-vehicles-registered-for-the- 
first-time
  1. Company closures (any company type; 2013) per ‘000 population
  • Importance to QOL: Low importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value
  • http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/bus-register/business-demography/index.html
  1. Mobile phone area coverage (%) 2014: Average of % of premises covered by 2G and 3G signal
  • Importance to QOL: High importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Highest value
  • http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market- data/infrastructure/infrastructure-2014/downloads/
  1. Average weekly working hours (2014, in hours worked per week)
  • Importance to QOL: Medium importance
  • Best value (highest or lowest): Lowest value

https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/query/construct/summary.asp?mode=construct&version=0&dataset=99

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uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

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