UK

Members of the professional middle class in England and Wales have seen a rapid decline in their options when looking for a place to buy a house. The number of electoral wards where the average property price is above the affordability threshold has risen from just 101 (1.1 per cent) in 1995 to 489 (5.7 per cent) in 2012.

Kate Allen

Aberdeen’s economy is booming. The gateway to Britain’s offshore oil and gas reserves, it has long helped to buoy up Scotland’s economy. And now with a wider economic recovery kicking in, it’s acting like Viagra on the area’s house prices.

Property values in Aberdeen and the surrounding area grew faster than anywhere else in the UK in 2013, according to new data produced by estate agents Savills exclusively for the FT.

Aberdeen has even outpaced last year’s hotspot, Elmbridge in Surrey. Read more

Martin Stabe

Surprisingly strong Christmas period retail sales data out today showed that UK shoppers spent 7.1 per cent more than in December 2012. Read more

London is getting younger. In contrast, the UK as a whole is getting older.

At least since Michael Goldfarb’s incendiary op-ed in the New York Times, there has been discussion about a “great exodus” from London. This chart shows that there is nothing new in recent history about net internal emigration from the capital. …

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Martin Stabe

Will your area of London be affected by the closure of ten fire stations today?

This map divides London into regions around each existing fire station. In areas shaded dark red, the nearest fire station will be closed. In regions shaded lighter red, the local station will lose a fire engine or specialist rescue unit. In blue-shaded regions, the nearest fire station will gain an additional fire engine.

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By Dan Thomas, map by John Burn-Murdoch

The animated map below shows a year’s worth of my mobile phone data obtained from my mobile operator, Three.

Every point that appears on the map is a phone call I made or text message I sent, with the location derived from the handset’s distance from the nearest antenna masts.

This news story has more detail on the reasons companies hold this data, the implications for your privacy and other cases where individuals have used data request laws to shed light on just how much personal information organisations hold. Read more

Emily Cadman

The new radio series from Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, is an entertaining, accessible look at Britain’s social history – and one that readers of this blog will probably find rather interesting.

(c) Financial Times/Shaun Curry

Sir Andrew opens the first episode declaring “It is about us, not governments”, and that is the theme running through the series. With a mixture of single statistics, and interviews he tries to build a picture of changes in the life of ordinary British people, rather than looking at policy.

With each episode clocking it at around 15 minutes, and the timeframe running from medieval times to the current day, the programme aims for historical sweep, rather than contemporary analysis. Read more

Emily Cadman

After five years of historically low interest rates across the US, UK and eurozone, Wednesday’s vastly improved job forecast from the Bank of England raised the prospect of a return to more normal monetary policy.

A report out today from McKinsey attempts to quantify the impact of years of ultra lose monetary policy has been on the winners – and losers. Whilst there are few surprises in the report, it does attempt to put numbers on the winners and losers.

Unsurprisingly, it is governments that come out on top. The consultancy estimates that between 2007 and 2012 the US, UK and eurozone governments collectively benefited to the tune of $1.6tr from lower borrowing costs and the increased profits from central banks.

For consumers though it is a mixed bag. Read more

Kate Allen

By Kate Allen, Callum Locke and Martin Stabe

House prices in the UK are a perennial topic of interest. But different indices measure house prices in different ways, causing confusion among home-owners, who can’t be sure whether their house price is going up or down.

This has become particularly noticeable in recent years as the indices readings have diverged.

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Chinatowns gif

Gentrification and commercial developments are breaking up Chinatowns in US and British cities, squeezing Chinese communities out of the vibrant neighbourhoods that grew up around earlier generations of migrants.

The changing demographics of New York City further highlight this pattern, with Asian communities having sprung up in Flushing and Queens, where they were traditionally focused in Lower Manhattan.

The animated maps above show decadal changes in the spread of localised Chinese and Asian communities in London, New York and San Francisco, created using data from the 2001 and 2011 editions of the UK census and the US censuses of 2000 and 2010. Read more

Wokingham is the top area in Great Britain for technology jobs, with the silicon sector accounting for more than five times as large a share of its labour market than the national average.

According to a report compiled by data firm Markit for KPMG, the south east of England is host to almost two in every five local authorities with technology employment location quotients (LQs) greater than 1.0, indicating that tech jobs comprise a larger proportion of the local job market than the equivalent figure across England, Wales and Scotland.

Sources: Markit Economics for KPMG, using ONS data Read more

Government climate change policies will save the typical household £41 in energy bills by 2030 according to figures released by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, although the same policies will increase the retail price of electricity by 41 per cent.

One of the ways DECC achieves its net savings figure is by assuming sizeable energy efficiency savings over the coming decades. By 2030, the document projects efficiency savings equivalent to 5 per cent of what the typical dual fuel bill would be were the policies not put in place.

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Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) today announced that its typical dual fuel energy bill will rise in price by 8.2 per cent in November.

SSE is blaming the price hike on increases in wholesale energy costs, network distribution charges and changes to the government schemes energy companies pay into. SSE’s own figures, however, show the biggest increase in any component of the bill comes under other costs at its end including profit margins.

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Chris Cook

A few weeks ago, the Financial Times leader column – the voice of the newspaper – issued a fairly damning verdict on the Information Commissioner’s Office about its weak enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act. Big central government departments – particularly the Cabinet Office – routinely flout the law. The ‘paper wrote:

The Cabinet Office scarcely pretends to comply. And why would it? Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, is responsible for enforcing the act – and he has proved to be a paper tiger. He has the power to investigate, demand documents and prosecute the non-compliant. But his preferred regulatory tool is forbearance. So the worst that departments have to fear from refusing to follow the law is being asked to have another go at answering requests at some later date.

Mr Graham replied fairly grumpily on our letters page.

…we served a decision notice against the Department for Education, clearly setting out our position in general and on the specific point that the secretary of state’s private email was caught by the act (in the circumstances of that case). We also served a further decision notice ordering the Cabinet Office to comply with a request for information relating to the prime minister’s use of non-GSI email accounts. Non-compliance with the commissioner’s decision notice is contempt of court.

The record shows that the Information Commissioner’s Office regularly makes difficult decisions that challenge Whitehall – and we are not afraid to make them

It was not terribly convincing – and was filleted by others fairly comprehensively. But last week, the Information Commissioner’s Office released some documents in response to a FoIA request about the letter. The surprising part of the release is that it suggests the ICO’s staff not only wrote the letter, but are convinced by their arguments. Given that, it is worth unpacking the claims it makes – not least for their benefit. Read more

Kate Allen

US economic growth has been revised upwards to 2.5 per cent. A pretty impressive rate, given that the UK is currently stagnating at just 0.7 per cent. On the other hand, it looks less impressive when compared to China’s booming 7.6 per cent (even though, for China, that’s a slowdown).

But wait a minute. Economists across the land are howling in pain at this jumble of misinterpretation. These rates aren’t comparable at all – because they’re all measuring different things. Read more

Kate Allen

The number of working-age households in the UK has fallen for the first time since data collection began nearly 20 years ago, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Household growth has been fairly steady over the past two decades, with the overall population continuing to grow, and this is the first time figures* have actually dropped. Pressures such as low real wage growth and rising housing costs have created economic constraints in recent years which could help to explain the dramatic shift.

UK households

In particular, the numbers of single-person and lone parent households have fallen, hinting at housing affordability pressures. The number of couples with dependent children (under 18s) rose year-on-year, suggesting that families may be staying together rather than separating. Read more

Chris Cook

One of my perennial moans about Britain is the lousy state of its badly funded thinktanks: there are noble exceptions, but too few. This weekend, the Centre for Policy Studies published a piece arguing that the BBC was not impartial in its choice of stories nor its presentation of them; leftier thinktanks, it reckoned, get more coverage than rightier ones and an easier ride. I claim no expertise in that. I was more interested by the maths: the conclusions may well be right, but the analysis is bizarre.

The work relies upon a ranking of how left- or rightwing thinktanks are, which is drawn from the number of mentions of those thinktanks in articles in the Guardian (for the left) and the Telegraph (on the right). There are many, many things wrong with the analysis. Read more

Kate Allen

House prices in Britain may be booming once more.

But unlike the bubble of the last decade, this one is very narrowly focused. In fact, it’s really only London that’s seen any growth since the previous national average house price peak in 2008.

Good news for Londoners. But they should put down the champagne: in fact, most of them haven’t benefited that much at all.

Most areas have seen some price growth since 2008. But there are just a handful of stand-out winners. And – yes, even in London – some people have actually seen their house prices fall.

London winners and losers

The clearest winners are the two historic cities: London and Westminster. Yes, prices there really have soared since 2008. The average house price in Westminster topped £1m for the first time last year and is now at £1.3m; up from £746,000 five years earlier.

Perhaps more surprisingly, two rather more down-at-heel boroughs, Southwark and Hackney, are also seeing booming prices. They’ve even managed to push perhaps the most desirable borough of them all, Kensington & Chelsea, into fifth place. Read more

Emily Cadman

Further confirmation – if it was needed – of how rapidly the media industry is changing comes in today’s ONS statistical bulletin on internet access.

This year, for the first time, the majority of adults in the UK report reading news online (55 percent), up from 47 percent in 2012. And the pace of adoption has been rapid.

Whilst the growth in interest in online news offers opportunities for publishers, coincidentally, an interesting study out today from City University’s Neil Thurman provides a caveat. It suggests that despite the big increase in online readership substantially more reader time is spent on print editions than online.

But, the clear theme of the ONS bulletin is how deeply the internet has become embedded in daily life to an extent unimaginable only a few years ago. Read more

Kate Allen

Last month, in advance of a report on 14 hospital trusts with relatively high death rates, it was widely reported that there had been 13,000 “unnecessary” deaths.

But, as a leading academic points out in today’s British Medical Journal, this demonstrates an epic lack of understanding of the concept of an average.

The 13,000 figure is the difference between the actual number of deaths in the 14 hospitals compared to the “expected” level. But what some writers failed to understand is that the “expected” level equated to the national average. As a result much of the coverage was seriously misleading, according to David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge. Read more