Britain’s shrinking councils: Blackpool, Ceredigion… Kensington and Chelsea

According to recently-released data from the ONS, there were 4.82 million more people in the UK on this date in 2016 than on 30 June 2006, an increase of 7.9%. Many cities and big towns are growing much faster, with Manchester, Coventry, Peterborough, Luton, Milton Keynes, Slough and Bournemouth all up by more than 15%.

But 22 top-tier council areas (unitaries or county councils) have actually seen a fall in population over that decade. With one exception, they fall into two groups. Some are badly-off remote rural areas including Cumbria, Na h-Eileanan Siar (the Western Isles) and Ceredigion in Wales. Others are badly-off urban and suburban areas in the north of England and Scotland including Blackpool, Knowsley and Sefton on Merseyside and several authorities around Glasgow – although not the City of Glasgow itself, which grew 8.2%.

The exception is the wealthy and scandal-hit Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which shrunk 5.2% – the biggest drop of any top-tier council area. It stands out even more within Greater London, which grew by 15.7% over the decade to nearly 8.8m. The East End has by far the fastest-growing areas: Tower Hamlets – up 39.6% to 305,000 – and Newham, up 32.2% to 341,000. In 2006, Kensington and Chelsea had 26% more people per square kilometre than Tower Hamlets; in 2016 Tower Hamlets had 17% more.

There are many reasons for residents to be furious following the Grenfell Tower fire. The way that their area has changed over the last decade, which appears to be at least partly due to properties being bought and left empty, must be contributing.

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