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New research shows people leave East Anglia for London because they fear staying at home will hamper ‘life opportunities’

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:00 15 June 2017

47% of people who left the east for London feared they would miss out on life opportunities if they stayed in the Suffolk and north Essex  Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA

47% of people who left the east for London feared they would miss out on life opportunities if they stayed in the Suffolk and north Essex Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA

Almost half of people who left Suffolk and north Essex for London think staying at home would have hampered their opportunities in life.

RP_social mobility_Suffolk_237 RP_social mobility_Suffolk_237

TThe findings, released by the Social Mobility Commission, highlight a “brain drain” of talent out of the east and into London.

The perception of 47% of people polled from this region who now live in Greater London has been labelled as both “worrying” and “not true” by Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter.

He said that although lots of things are being done to retain young talent in the region there is still a long way to go to change beliefs and reverse the trend.

The main thrust of the report focused on social mobility. National findings included:

Dr Dan Poulter Dr Dan Poulter

• Nearly half of people (48%) say that where you end up in society is determined by who your parents are;

• Half of young people think the situation is getting worse with only 30% of 18-24 year olds believing it is becoming easier to move up in British society;

• Nearly three quarters of people (71%) say there are large differences in opportunity depending on where you live in the country.

Dr Poulter said promoting the region – and hubs like Ipswich, Colchester and Bury St Edmunds – to businesses who will hopefully set up bases here would steadily improve the amount of people who stayed and attract more talent from elsewhere.

“The perception that you have to leave to get on is worrying – and not true,” he said. “There has been some good news in recent years. In 2009 the average wage in Suffolk was £490 a week and below the national average. Now it is £620 which is £80 above the average.

“We have made great strides in the manufacturing and food and drink sectors and I think we will see more growth in companies who find that Suffolk is a great place to be based.

“But there is always more that can be done – we need to attract more businesses to open headquarters and regional offices here. Ipswich especially is a prime spot and I hope more businesses will move in and boost the local economy in the coming years.

“I am encouraged by the movements we are seeing in the private sector. What we are beginning to see is real movement towards Suffolk. That will attract top talent here – and help us hang on to the talent we produce.

“What we also need to consider very closely is how to attract and retain talent in the public sector. What we tend to see – and this happens across the whole country – is young professionals who work in health are attracted to big cities.

“That is something which we need to address because the implications are potentially dire.”

He added that rasing the expectations of the young was key to improving opportunities in the east: “The wider findings in this report about young people believing that their future is determined by the surroundings they are born into is worrying. What we can do make sure our university here in Suffolk and our schools are working together. Aspiration must not simply start after GCSEs or A-levels but before. Outreach work is most certainly key.

“If we can encourage our young talent to study here and join that up with getting top quality jobs in Suffolk, people will stay.”

University of Suffolk’s director of external relations, Polly Bridgman, agrees: “Our very existence is because of an ambition to raise aspirations and to make going to university a viable option for young people and mature learners in Suffolk.

“Every university in the country is required to undertake an element of outreach work, here at the University of Suffolk we go above and beyond, it is in our DNA, and is already having a positive impact on local communities.”

Kirsty Heath, 35, left Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, nine years ago. Now she feels the drop in wage she would suffer coming back to Suffolk means it is not an option.

“Having completed a master’s degree in radio production, I was desperate to work as a radio producer and there simply weren’t any opportunities in Suffolk.

“I volunteered at a community radio station and worked in a shop.

“I bombarded local radio stations with requests for interviews but there were few prospects.

“The choice was to stay in Suffolk and continue working in retail or look elsewhere. When I looked at London I was offered two jobs within a fortnight.

“I now work for a large media organisation running the commercial operations of their events business.

“I do consider coming back but I would no doubt have to take a 50% pay cut, so it’s not really an option.”

• YouGov interviewed 4,723 people for the commission in March 2017

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