United Kingdom

Dissatisfaction with local area

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Low-income households are more likely than richer households to feel dissatisfied with the area they live in, but the proportion is still small (11-12%).
  • The groups most likely to be dissatisfied with their local area are those living in deprived areas (20%), lone parents (16%) and social renters (14%).
  • A quarter of people think that their local area has been getting worse over time compared with only one in ten who think it has been getting better.
  • The perception that they are serious problems is more prevalent in deprived areas than in non-deprived areas, with litter/rubbish being the subject most often cited as a problem.
  • On average, people in more deprived areas are slightly – but only slightly – more likely to be dissatisfied with their local public services than those living in other areas.
  • For most services, around a fifth of adults are dissatisfied with the service.  There are, however, two notable exceptions: services for young people, where the proportion dissatisfied is high (around half); and schools, where the proportion is low (less than one in ten).
  • See the ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland indicators for equivalent analyses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

Crime is the most commonly reported problem in people’s neighbourhoods, with three quarters viewing it as a problem, and a quarter viewing it as a serious problem. 1 Crime is higher in deprived areas 2, and residents of council estates regard crime as a more serious local problem than any other group, although affluent urban areas, often near council estates, also regard it as the key issue affecting local quality of life 3.  This indicator measures the proportion of individuals expressing dissatisfaction with their neighbourhood. It also shows how the fear of crime varies across different population groups.

Analysis of areas with high levels of resident dissatisfaction show that, whilst economically disadvantaged areas have the highest levels of dissatisfaction, an exception to this is local areas with transient populations where income levels may be above average but neighbourhood satisfaction is below average. 4  Areas with transient populations tend to have higher crime rates than areas with stable populations. 5

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the proportion of households who say they are dissatisfied with their local area, with the data shown separately depending on whether the gross weekly household income is above or below £200.  ‘Household income’ is the gross income of the head of household and their partner (if any), as net incomes adjusted for household size are only available from 2008/09 onwards.  Note that, from 2001/02, the concept of head of household was replaced by that of household reference person (which is the person with the highest income in the household).

The second graph shows the proportion of households who say that they are dissatisfied with their local area for particular groups of households, where these groups have been chosen as they have above-average levels of dissatisfaction.

The third graph shows, for each year shown, the proportion of households who have lived in their local area for at least two years who said that they think that their local area had got better/worse over the previous two years.  Note that the latest data is only available for the years shown.

The fourth graph shows the proportion of households who agreed that the stated factor was a serious problem in their local area.  The data is shown separately for households living in the ‘most deprived’ fifth of areas and for those in other areas, where ‘deprived’ areas are as defined in the English Index of Deprivation.  Note that the data is for the latest year only as the precise questions asked vary from year to year.

The data source for the first four graphs is the household dataset from the English Housing Survey (EHS) and the data relates to England.

The fifth graph shows how the proportion of adults who are dissatisfied (very or fairly dissatisfied) with their local public service varies from service to service and from those living in deprived areas to those living in other areas.

The data source for the fifth graph is the Citizenship Survey and the data relates to England and Wales only.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years; note, however, that some of the questions were only asked in two of the three years and the results for these questions are perforce an average for these two years only.  Respondents who did not answer the questions have been excluded from the analysis (for example, many people did not answer the questions about social housing or schools, presumably because they did not use them).  ‘Deprived areas’ are those areas which are in the bottom fifth of the 2007 Indices of Deprivation for England and Wales, with these calculations being done separately for the two countries as their Indices are not directly comparable.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: high.  EHS is a well-established government survey, designed to be nationally representative.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Build more cohesive, empowered and active communities

Lead department

Department for Communities and Local Government.

Official national targets


Other indicators of progress

Percentage of people who believe people from different backgrounds get on well together in their local area.

Percentage of people who have meaningful interactions with people from different backgrounds.

Percentage of people who feel they can influence decisions in their locality.

Percentage of people who feel that they belong to their neighbourhood.

Thriving third sector.

Percentage of people who participate in culture or in sport.

Previous 2004 targets

Increase voluntary and community engagement, especially amongst those at risk of social exclusion.

Reduce race inequalities and build community cohesion.

Tackle social exclusion and deliver neighbourhood renewal, working with department to help them meet their PSA floor Official national targets, in particular narrowing the gap in health, education, crime, worklessness, housing and liveability outcomes between the most deprived areas and the rest of England, with measurable improvement by 2010.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Households receiving less than £200 a week Head of household receiving £200 a week or more
1995/9611% 8%
1996/9713% 9%
1997/9813% 10%
1998/9912% 7%
1999/0012% 7%
2000/0113% 7%
2001/0212% 8%
2002/0313% 7%
2003/0413% 9%
2004/0513% 8%
2005/0612% 8%
2006/0712% 7%
2007/0811% 7%
2008/0911% 8%

Graph 2

Group Dissatisfied
Household reference person is aged 16 to 2411%
Household income less than £200 per week11%
Living in London12%
Lone parents16%
Social renters14%
Living in the most deprived tenth of areas 20%

Graph 3

Year BetterWorse
1995/96 11% 31%
1999/00 10% 24%
2000/01 13% 27%
2001/02 10% 27%
2002/03 10% 27%
2003/04 11% 26%
2004/05 11% 25%
2008/0913% 26%

Graph 4

Group Deprived areas
Non-deprived areas
Litter/rubbish23% 7%
Drugs22% 6%
Troublesome teenagers19% 7%
Fear of being burgled17% 7%
Vandalism/graffiti18% 6%
Drunkenness/rowdiness15% 5%
Crime16% 4%
Noisy neighbours9% 3%

Graph 5

ServiceDeprived areas
Non-deprived areas
Services for young people53% 46%
Police28% 25%
How the local authority runs things24% 19%
Social housing22% 18%
Public parks26% 16%
Schools10% 7%
1. Hills J, Income and wealth: the latest evidence, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1998. 
2. A new commitment to neighbourhood renewal. National strategy action plan. Social Exclusion Unit 2001. 
3. Hills J, Income and wealth: the latest evidence, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1998. 
4. Burrows R and Rhodes D, 1998, ‘Hitting the target?’ In Housing and social exclusion, ed Anderson I and Sim D. 
5. Hirschfield A and Bowers K, The effect of social cohesion on levels of recorded crime in disadvantaged areas, Urban Studies, Vol. 34, No 8, 1997.