The leader of Croydon Council has rebuffed new research that suggested Croydon was the eighth least prosperous area in the UK.
The Geography of Prosperity Index, which compared economic output per person (GDP) with how happy people felt, was published by public policy think tank The Legatum Institute on Tuesday (October 27).
It also ranked Croydon the tenth worst place for life satisfaction in the UK and found that the borough’s GDP was £695 lower than Wolverhampton, the least prosperous area in the UK.
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of Croydon Council, told EastLondonLines: “These surveys are a bit all encompassing aren’t they?
“Croydon’s changing so rapidly, but one of the challenges in Croydon at the moment is that we’re seeing rapid economic growth, but the average salary is still only £27,000 a year.
“The challenges facing Croydon at the moment, many of them are quite exciting in terms of economic growth, regeneration, redevelopment, but that brings a new set of challenges for a council in terms of ensuring that, housing primarily, but other aspects of the public sector are affordable.”
The council leader pointed to the introduction of the London Living Wage for council staff, the Private Landlord Licensing scheme, which aims to improve conditions for private tenants, and the redevelopment of Fairfield Halls arts centre, as ways in which the council is trying to improve the lives of Croydon residents.
“My usual advice for people who do these surveys is why don’t they pop themselves on a train and come to Croydon and I’ll look forward to meeting them,” Newman said.
EastLondonLines spoke to Croydon residents and they seemed unsurprised that their home borough was ranked near the bottom of the prosperity index, but they felt the area was changing.
Mila Suntaramoorthy, 28, a teacher, described how Croydon is changing because of a rise in house prices.
“New people are moving in, but people are being pushed out because of house prices,” she said.
She felt house prices in Croydon were starting to match the more expensive parts of London, and that prices would continue to rise because of the size of properties in the area.
“Some big terrace houses here could easily be worth half a million in Peckham,” she explained.
House prices rose 5.69 per cent in Croydon last year, which is just above the London wide rise of 5.56 per cent, according to property website Zoopla.
Donelle Simpson, 18, unemployed, felt the prosperity of the area was more to do with the quality of the shops.
“It’s half and half, sometimes it’s a nice place to be, sometimes it’s not,” he said.
“It’s all based around shops – if it looks appealing I would go in.”
Lucy Patterson, 29, a freelance administrator, complemented Croydon and said it was “more real” in comparison to “trendy” places like Clapham, but noted that the council “could do a lot to spruce it up”.
The prosperity report compared Eurostat’s GDP statistics from 2011, with ONS well being data from 2013/2014.
According to the report, London had three of the least prosperous areas in the UK, with Croydon, Bexley and Greenwich and Brent.
But the report also found London had four of the five most prosperous areas in the UK, with Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Wandsworth and Camden and the City of London.
Sian Hansen, executive director of the Legatum Institute, said: “The Geography of Prosperity Index reveals that prosperity is about more than just wealth – it is about feeling that one’s life is worthwhile.”
An interactive map of all the data can be found on the reports’ website.