Yesterday’s newspapers covered the results of a ‘quality of life’ survey that stated that Edinburgh is the best place to live in the UK, and Bradford is the worst. Whilst I’ll agree that Edinburgh is a wonderful (if expensive) city, there is no way that Bradford is the worst place in the UK. And I’m speaking as a former Bradford resident who still works there and travels to the city at least five days a week.
The survey came from a press release put out by uSwitch.com. uSwitch is not a thinktank, local authority or university, or indeed any kind of organisation involved in research. It’s actually a price comparison web site, designed to help you find cheaper deals on phone, internet and energy contracts. So clearly, this ‘survey’ is about getting publicity and press coverage, rather than a serious piece of research.
Bradford is apparently “let down by low disposable income, low employment, high rent and crowded schools”, according to the press release. There are issues with schools in Bradford – as someone who works in education, I’m very much aware of this. But I dispute the high rent claims. uSwitch claims that average rents are £92.60 per week, but a few minutes on Rightmove showed a wide range of properties for less than half of this.
Whilst disposable incomes may be low, so is the cost of living – food is cheap, as is public transport.
Next month sees the long-awaited opening of Westfield’s Broadway shopping centre, which will bring hundreds of new jobs to the city. So hopefully the unemployment rate in the area will continue to fall as it has been doing recently.
In 2007, Bradford was named Britain’s greenest city and is home to several large public parks, including the award-winning Lister Park, Horton Park, Peel Park and the new City Park in the city centre. You can get out into the countryside quite quickly, unlike in many other cities. And my employer, the University of Bradford, recently won a Green Flag award for its campus.
Just this week, Bradford was named Curry Capital of Britain for a record fifth year in a row.
Hull also did poorly in the ‘survey’, coming second from bottom. This is despite it being named City of Culture 2017.
In essence though, is there really anything to be gained from highlighting the ‘worst’ cities in the UK? Sure, it gets a bit of publicity for the company releasing the survey. But it then leaves those cities and its employers and representatives with the job of mopping up the damage to their reputation. It’s rather mean of companies like uSwitch to publish these ‘surveys’, especially when they don’t seem to understand the implications for the cities named.
In any case, the ‘best’ or ‘worst’ city to live in depends on a lot of factors, some of which will be unique to each person. Given the choice between Bradford, and, say Bracknell in Berkshire, I’d happily choose Bradford. But there are also places like Sowerby Bridge, where I now live, that now meet my needs better than Bradford does. A survey based on a few generalised measurements isn’t actually all that helpful.