By Local Democracy Reporter Katie May Nelson
A think tank has published a list ranking the ‘most prosperous’ places in the country, with no areas in Kent coming out on top.
None of the county’s 13 local authorities managed to gain a place within the top 50 in the Legatum Institute’s UK Prosperity Index 2021.
A number of factors were considered order to rank areas which included the safety and security of local communities, resident’s physical and mental health, living conditions and investment in the environment on top of conditions relating to the financial stability of local economies.
Among the local authorities in Kent, Sevenoaks was ranked the highest at 59th, whilst Thanet was considered least prosperous at 309th out of 379.
Thanet dropped 23 places from the think tank’s 2020 report and was outlined in its executive summary as having one of the sharpest declines, ranking poorly for safety and security, enterprise conditions and economic quality.
Conversely, Sevenoaks ranked highly for enterprise and was within the top 20 local authorities for quality of social capital, which refers to the network of relationships among people in society; it moved up 25 places.
The full list of rankings for local authorities in Kent and Medway were:
- Sevenoaks – 59th
- Tunbridge Wells – 80th
- Tonbridge and Malling – 85th
- Dartford – 114th
- Ashford – 120th
- Maidstone – 123rd
- Gravesham – 157th
- Canterbury – 201st
- Medway – 216th
- Folkestone and Hythe – 219th
- Swale – 230th
- Dover – 239th
- Thanet -309th
Folkestone and Hythe was highlighted as having the “greatest strengthening of family relationships within the south east” with a decrease in the percentage of lone parent families, from 20% to 17% over a decade.
Last year Thanet council’s cabinet member for finance, Cllr Rob Yates, spoke of his anger at having to make more cuts to services amid falling funding from central government.
Speaking at a budget meeting Cllr Yates said council tax was being increased by 2% – around £4.99 per year for a Band D property – but added that it was “not enough to fund local government.”
But he also outlined growth that had been supported by TDC and the community wealth building project aimed at encouraging large organisations in Thanet to spend their money locally where possible.
He said: “Within this we have signed up to a “Community Wealth Fund Alliance” that could bring £10 million pounds into 5 of our most ‘left behind’ wards if their initiative is successful.”
Cllr Yates says tourism remains ‘a priority’ with Thanet’s visitor economy – pre-covid- valued at £352 million, after welcoming 4.6 million visitors in 2019.
Overall, the south east – excluding London – was considered the most prosperous region, with 34 of the 60 top-performing local authorities.
Wokingham received the highest rank and Blackpool the overall lowest.
Professor Matthew Goodwin, director of the Legatum Institute’s Centre for UK Prosperity, said: “Genuine prosperity is about far more than building a strong economy or giving people bridges and trains.
“The index shows that we also need to invest in areas such as safety and security, health, enterprise conditions, and family and community life if we are to see all citizens, neighbourhoods, and communities reach their full potential.
“This is why, while we support the focus on levelling-up regions that have historically been left behind, we believe that the government can be bolder.
“We need to do more than just level-up left behind areas to the status-quo.
“We should be much more ambitious and aim to reach entirely new heights by creating the conditions that will put all regions and communities into the fast lane toward greater and long-lasting prosperity.”