Resolver Insight Report: The North–South Divide




Introduction


The recent general election has turned many of the traditional assumptions about the United Kingdom upside down. It has also highlighted the disparity that many people feel exists in the quality of services available to them in their local communities.

With over 5 million cases and 3 million users, Resolver is uniquely placed to provide insight on the issues that matter most to people around the UK. Resolver wanted to see if its data demonstrated a North–South divide that aligned with traditional assumptions and, if so, what challenges that would pose for the Government in the years ahead.

Much has been made of the political will to ‘level up’ communities around the UK, with everyone treated equally and the same opportunities and infrastructure available to all. Resolver’s report shows that there are clear differences in the issues that are affecting both people's lives and the functionality of the services they rely upon. These are issues that will need to be addressed through policy and investment if the Government’s ambitions are to be achieved.


Defining the North and South


For this report, Resolver has used the traditional boundaries of North-West and North-East, contrasted with South-West and South-East including London. Scotland is included separately. The report does not include the Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland.


The data


This report samples over half a million cases from people in the North, South and Scotland.

Resolver considered four sectors and took the top five ‘most complained about’ issues where there was a notable difference in what people in the North, South and Scotland were likely to complain about. These sectors are:

  • Energy – gas, electricity, service providers
  • Travel – bus, coach, train and plane
  • Telecommunications – mobile, broadband, service providers
  • Water

Water has been included as a control group because most people have no choice about which service provider supplies their area.

In this report, data analysis is focused on broad categories. When Resolver’s users make a complaint, they are asked to select a category that best represents the issue they are having with the business. It’s worth noting that Resolver’s technology allows for much more detailed conclusions to be drawn about key trends, patterns and emerging issues than the straightforward problems covered in this report. Resolver helps people with over 120 different products and sectors through its website.

A detailed methodology is shown at the end of the report. However, in summary, Resolver looked at each of the individual constituencies in the UK and the latest population data. The proportion of each constituency that had made complaints to Resolver about specific issues was determined, and the totals then combined.

The tables in this report give the percentage difference between the North/Scotland and the South. They also show the number of complaints used in calculating this figure.


North and South data


This analysis designates constituencies within the geographical regions of North West, North-East and Yorkshire & the Humber as North, while South covers the geographical regions of South-East, London, Eastern and South-West.


Energy


Sector Main complaint % difference No. of cases
Energy Debt related problem 48% 1693
Energy Multiple complaints 47% 7935
Energy Customer Service Issue 31% 4047
Energy Direct debit problem 30% 365
Energy Smart meter issue 24% 988

Telecoms


Sector Main complaint % difference No. of cases
Telecoms Price dispute 26% 902
Telecoms Customer Service Issue 26% 3810
Telecoms Credit score damaged 22% 1129
Telecoms Billing issue 17% 6060
Telecoms Multiple complaints 9% 39382

Travel


Sector Main complaint % difference No. of cases
Travel Accommodation Issue 32% 4325
Travel Customer Service Issue 32% 3242
Travel Multiple complaints 31% 61599
Travel Delayed Train 28% 1449
Travel Delay Repay 19% 753

Water


Sector Main complaint % difference No. of cases
Water Multiple complaints -35% 1843

Scotland and South data


The same grouping principle as above has been applied in the following results, but instead of the North, the constituencies within Scotland have been used.


Energy


Sector Main complaint % difference No. of cases
Energy Customer Service Issue 67% 3354
Energy Billing issue 62% 2033
Energy Account details problem (including address changes) 59% 508
Energy Switching supplier problem 54% 1375
Energy Meter reading problem 51% 772

Telecoms


Sector Main complaint % difference No. of cases
Telecoms Customer Service Issue 33% 2913
Telecoms Credit or discount not applied 20% 522
Telecoms Multiple complaints 19% 30616
Telecoms Price dispute 14% 635
Telecoms Poor signal generally 13% 5097

Travel


Sector Main complaint % difference No. of cases
Travel Issue with flight 33% 218093
Travel Company has made significant changes 25% 440
Travel Customer Service Issue 24% 2355
Travel Problem with booking/reservation 18% 1240
Travel Delay repay 16% 530

Water


Sector Main complaint % difference No. of cases
Water Multiple complaints 28% 1440

In summary


This data shows that people in the North and Scotland are facing considerable challenges in their everyday lives when trying to pay or switch energy supplier, use their mobile, access a decent broadband signal and get connected with transport services (from trains and buses to planes).

While everyone in the UK is struggling to varying degrees with key infrastructure services, our evidence does show that these problems increase the further North you go.

If you’d like to know more about what is driving the complaints in these sectors, contact Resolver at press@resolver.co.uk


Methodology


The principal areas of complaint were aggregated by constituency and divided by the population within the constituency, giving us the number of complaints per person within the constituency.

In order to correlate this with the geographical location of each constituency an average latitude was calculated from the latitude of each postcode area within the constituencies. This provides us with a general North–South axis of the UK, which can be used to identify patterns of over-indexing by geographical location of a constituency.

As an aside, we’re pleased to confirm that using this approach showed that, as we move North, more complaints relative to the population are being registered with Resolver.


Sampling method


England has 533 constituencies, which in general should be a sample large enough to find significant and meaningful correlations. One of the challenges with our data is that not all of the main issue types across all sectors have been reported from all constituencies. In order to ensure that most of England is represented in the analysis, only issues that have been reported in 80% of constituencies are presented in this analysis. Additionally, in order to account for the fact that not all issue types are reported with the same frequency across all constituencies, the correlations were weighted by the number of times a specific issue had been reported within a constituency. Scotland is represented by 58 of its 59 constituencies that we had data for.

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