THERE is an 11 year gap in life expectancy between Solihull’s richest and poorest wards, council figures reveal.
The inequality divide in Solihull is the borough’s “big problem”, according to Smith’s Wood Green councillor Chris Williams and represents a “lottery of birth”.
The divide in prosperity has been epitomised in what many councillors have called a North-South divide in Solihull.
Statistically, the wards of the ‘northern regeneration areas’ are well below Solihull’s southern wards on the expected level for many factors that are conducive for a good quality of life, according a draft council report.
The Draft Joint Strategic Needs Assessment for 2017/18 has revealed continuing stagnation for the north Solihull regeneration area.
On average Solihull residents can expect to live until 65 without disability but the most deprived areas of Solihull are predicted to experience 20 years of disability at the end of their lives, commencing in their mid 50s.
On top of a discrepancy in life expectancy figures, 16 out of 29 neighbourhoods in north Solihull are in the most deprived 10 per cent in the country, including eight in the bottom five per cent.
The population of the north Solihull Regeneration area is much younger than the rest of the borough with a high proportion of children under four years old.
A child growing up in north Solihull is statistically more likely to be obese, suffer domestic abuse or sexual exploitation and much less likely to achieve A* to C grades in English and Maths – with only a 57 per cent achievement rate, compared to 71 per cent for southern wards.
Coun Williams last year spoke to the cabinet member for education councillor Ken Meeson on the rate of university attendance from 18 year-olds in the north compared to other wards.
Around 10 per cent of students from Smith’s Wood, in the north, go on to university but over 90 per cent of students from St Alphege, in the south, go on to study for a degree, according to Coun Williams.
To address inequality, he called for the council to give more support for small and medium-sized companies, to build more mixed-use housing developments that includes social housing, restore the full council tax benefit for the very worst off and improve transport links between the north and south.
Although there are some central Solihull wards that are deprived, the primary area of deprivation is generally considered to be the north regeneration area.
Conservative coun Meeson, chair of the Solihull health and wellbeing board and cabinet member for children, education and skills, said school leavers in the North Solihull regeneration area classified as NEET (not in employment, education or training) have fallen by more than half since 2013, while the number of unemployed people has fallen by 30 per cent since 2011.
He added: “The health of Solihull residents is good and getting better, however we do recognise that good health is not consistent across the borough.
“The health of some of our residents remains below an acceptable level.
“We are working with key organisations to ensure that everyone in Solihull has an equal chance to be healthier, happier, safer and more prosperous.
“The disparity in life expectancy between the north and south of the borough is historic and dates back to before the northern wards first became part of Solihull borough.”
Coun Meeson praised the work of the North Solihull Partnership which has seen more than £500million invested into the area.
He said: “We understand that education, work and environment are key determinants of health and wellbeing and life expectancy and are committed to improving these areas in the northern wards of the borough.
” The works include, but are not limited to, 1400 new homes, six new primary schools (with a further one planned) and the regeneration of two village centres.
“As a result, there has been an increase in life expectancy for the least affluent communities and an increase in pupils in the north Solihull regeneration area achieving a good level of development at foundation stage.”