Macc ‘has wider class gulf now than in 1930s’

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER -

THE huge gulf be­tween the haves and have-nots in Mac­cles­field has been high­lighted as part of a his­tory project in­spired by George Or­well.

In 1937, ‘ The Road to Wi­gan Pier’ – which in­cluded a trip through Mac­cles­field – shocked the coun­try with its de­pic­tion of poverty in the north.

And a project to re­trace Or­well’s route us­ing 21stcen­tury tech­nol­ogy has re­vealed that the gulf be­tween rich and poor in Mac­cles­field is now even wider to­day than it was 80 years ago.

While many of the ar­eas on Or­well’s route see large num­bers of work­ing or mid­dle class house­holds, the ma­jor­ity of res­i­dents in Mac­cles­field are ei­ther up­per or lower class.

So while a wealthy third con­sider them­selves to be up­per class, another quar­ter say they are lower class.

The project has been com­pleted us­ing 1931 cen­sus fig­ures from the Uni­ver­sity of Portsmouth’s A Vi­sion of Bri­tain Through Time.

Mac­cles­field has a par­tic­u­larly high pro­por­tion of up­per class peo­ple com­pared to the rest of Eng­land and Wales.

Al­most one in three (31 per cent) were classed as up­per class, mean­ing they were pro­fes­sion­als or man­agers, the last time fig­ures were col­lected in 2011.

This has risen from 20 per cent of work­ers who were up­per class in 1931, just be­fore Or­well’s trip.

By com­par­i­son, al­most a quar­ter (23 per cent) de­scribe them­selves as lower class, up from the 15 per cent seen by Or­well (ac­cord­ing to 1931 fig­ures).

Else­where, Mac­cles­field has a rel­a­tively low num­ber of rough sleep­ers com­pared to the rest of the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures, there were at least four peo­ple sleep­ing rough in Cheshire East at the end of Oc­to­ber 2016 – down from 12 peo­ple counted just two years be­fore.

In com­par­i­son, the num­ber of rough sleep­ers counted across Eng­land as a whole has risen by more than 50 per cent over the same pe­riod, and is now at a lit­tle over twice what it was in 2010.

And when it comes to key poverty in­di­ca­tors such as un­em­ploy­ment, in­fant mor­tal­ity and over­crowded hous­ing, things have only im­proved for Cheshire East since Or­well wrote his book.

Com­pared to other lo­ca­tions on George Or­well’s route for The Road to Wi­gan Pier, Cheshire East didn’t fare too badly when it came to key poverty fig­ures in the 1930s.

In terms of in­fant mor­tal­ity, a shock­ing 54 in ev­ery 1,000 ba­bies born in Cheshire East in the 1930s died be­fore the age of one.

By 2014, death rates for ba­bies un­der the age of one had plum­meted to just seven in ev­ery 1,000 ba­bies.

This was pretty sim­i­lar to the drop in in­fant deaths seen across Eng­land and Wales – the 1930s saw 66 in­fant deaths for ev­ery 1,000 ba­bies, drop­ping to just six in ev­ery 1,000 by 2014.

Mean­while, the rate of un­em­ploy­ment has also mas­sively im­proved in Cheshire East.

Around 10 per cent of all eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive men and women in the area were un­em­ployed in 1931, which was slightly lower than the rate for Eng­land and Wales.

Across the two coun­tries the un­em­ploy­ment rate was 11 per cent. Since then, of­fi­cial es­ti­mates show the rate of un­em­ploy­ment for all 16-64 year olds in Eng­land and Wales fell to five per cent in 2016.

Again, the rate in Cheshire is slightly lower at less than four per cent, putting the area in the top third of the coun­try when it comes to em­ploy­ment.

Sim­i­larly, the prob­lem of over­crowd­ing is now al­most non-ex­is­tent in Cheshire East.

The 1930s saw 12 per cent of peo­ple in Cheshire East liv­ing in house­holds with more than 1.5 peo­ple per room – the stan­dard for mea­sur­ing over­crowded hous­ing in Eng­land and Wales.

That’s nowhere near as bad as the 19 per cent of peo­ple who were liv­ing in over­crowded house­holds na­tion­wide.

In com­par­i­son, just one per cent of peo­ple across Eng­land and Wales were liv­ing in house­holds with more than 1.5 peo­ple per room in 2011 – the lat­est fig­ures avail­able.

Cheshire East, mean- while, saw an even more marked im­prove­ment with just 0.2 per cent of peo­ple liv­ing in over­crowded hous­ing in the area.

To read more about the project go to mir­ wigan­pier2017.

If you would like to share ex­pe­ri­ences of liv­ing on a low in­come or strug­gling with wel­fare cuts, con­tact re­albri­tain@trin­i­tymir­

Cheshire Im­age Bank

Bux­ton Road from above Wa­ters Green in Mac­cles­field dur­ing the 1930s

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