WOKINGHAM borough has been named the most prosperous place to live in the UK, according to a new report from the Legatum Institute.
It stated the area has the best living conditions in the UK, including health and conditions for business.
Cllr John Halsall, leader of the borough council said it was an excellent result, brought about by Conservative policies and commitment from the community.
“It is fantastic that Wokingham borough has been ranked as the most prosperous authority area in the UK,” he said. “It’s a real testament to the many years of Conservative management of the council, and to the hard work that so many across our borough put in every day into making this the best place to live.”
But the leader said this does not mean the borough can ignore “poorer pockets” in the community.
“One of the Conservative administration’s key priorities is to make sure that people do not get left behind as we rebuild after covid – that we level up all parts of the borough,” he said.
Cllr Lindsay Ferris, leader of the Wokingham Liberal Democrats said he judges an area by the community’s compassion for others.
“I am very proud of our area,” he said. “The local residents are one of the most friendly and helpful in the country. So many of you were prepared to help those less fortunate during the pandemic.”
He added: “While we may be the most affluent area of the UK, we judge an area on its compassion for others as well and here in Wokingham borough we have one of the most compassionate group of people in the country.
“It is not just the level of income people have, but what they do to help their neighbours and less well off that makes this area really special.”
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Cllr Rachel Burgess, leader of Wokingham Labour said it was no surprise a borough in the south east of England was considered prosperous, and put it down to geography.
“Wokingham’s easy access to London and the Thames Valley brings a host of benefits, access to jobs and wealth creation,” she said. “This wealth is then entrenched by high house prices that the majority cannot afford. And we know that living conditions, health outcomes, education and other social and wellbeing factors are intrinsically linked to this wealth.”
Cllr Burgess said the report “hides the wide difference within the borough between the haves and the have nots”.
She said: “This rich-poor gap can be seen in the large differences in child poverty throughout the borough. It was reported last year that one in six children in Wokingham borough live in poverty – but some areas experience much higher child poverty and deprivation levels than their wealthier neighbours.
“What’s more, the experience of a child living a life of poverty in Wokingham watching their wealthy peers live vastly different lives can also be uniquely harmful.”
Cllr Burgess said the report uses broad measures including many not normally associated with prosperity.
She added: “We score very low for travel times to schools and GPs, journey delay, low income primary school attainment and lack of tolerance for different classes — all areas where Wokingham borough needs to do better.
“What’s also disturbing is our poor score for the natural environment which includes air pollution and emissions – the council’s lack of action in this area is holding us back, making us less healthy and stopping the area from being the best it can be.”
She questioned why the cost of housing was not included.
“Private renting, affordability for first time buyers and council house waiting lists are all excluded from a report which purports to measure prosperity,” she said. “It seems to me the report’s selective choice of measures to include will be at odds with many people’s experience of living in the borough. Wokingham is certainly a great place to be wealthy; for the rest, not so much.”
The Legatum Institute analysed and ranked all 379 local authorities looking at issues from wealth and health to schools and safety.
The borough ranked second for health, 13th for social cohesion, and 17th for education.
Windsor and Maidenhead came in at number 18 in the leaderboard, followed by West Berkshire at 32, and Bracknell at 39.
Slough and Reading ranked at 127 and 156 respectively.