Sandwell, a metropolitan borough of the West Midlands, consistently ranks top among the country’s worst-off areas.
Just a few years ago it ranked 12th out of a total of 317 on the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).
Despite this, Sandwell recently ranked as the second most desirable place to live in the UK.
House prices in the borough have sky-rocketed in recent years, jumping from £107,560 in 2013 to £199,445 in 2023 — an increase of 85 percent.
Houses are also in abundance, with around 1,744 available for sale in Sandwell on Rightmove as of October, accounting for 510 properties per 100,000 people.
Some can’t quite understand why Sandwell, being so deprived, came in second on Swift Direct Blinds most deniability UK Property Index.
More recent studies have put Sandwell as the second lowest in the UK out of 333 local authorities for its cost-of-living vulnerability.
BlackCountryLive went out to a large council estate in Oldbury, located at the heart of Sandwell, to ask residents and businesses about the place being ranked as the most desirable of anywhere to live in the UK.
They were immediately met with confusion, with one man replying: “I don’t know who told you that. They are talking b*******.”
Another resident, a woman standing under a gazebo sheltering her from the pouring rain, said: “The area has gone downhill and a lot of the shops have shut — especially for older people. The figure is surprising.”
The 33-year-old owner of the Get In convenience store Karanjeet Singh described the area as “unsafe” and said he has had long-running trouble with the community and his shop since opening it in 2022.
“It’s alright but it is not a very safe place because in my shop I have had so much trouble,” he said.
“Since I started here, I have had troublemakers come into my shop, I have reported it to the council and the police.”
He claimed that one college student, who was part of a gang, once came into his shop with a large knife.
During another incident, one youth even hit him on his head with a bottle after he ushered a group out of his shop for allegedly causing trouble.
Mr Singh described the area as previously being a “very nice area” but having since declined due to crime and neglect.
When presented with the desirability data, another shop worker further along the town said: “No, absolutely not, I don’t agree with the survey.
“Who would want to live in Sandwell? It is very unsafe, with crime, it is overcrowded, it has just gone downhill.
“There are no nice areas to shop, no safe areas, children are not safe outside, it is not safe to walk the streets. It’s been forgotten, it’s a dumping ground and there is no policing whatsoever.”
Others described the area as being scarce of business and trade, yet prices continually rising.
One man said: “It’s all gambling shops and charity shops and addicts on the road. We need to bring in more traffic.”
While many of those asked said few positive things about Oldbury and Sandwell at large, the borough does boast superb transport links to nearby Birmingham, with multiple train lines, the Midland Metro tram line, the M5 and M6, as well as several bus services.
And, while the area has experienced an 85 percent property increase to just shy of £200,000, this is still well below the national average in England of £306,000.
In response to the story about crime in Oldbury, Inspector Wes Smith from West Midlands Police said: “We fully understand the impact of crime and anti-social behaviour on our communities and businesses in Oldbury town centre. This is why we carry out regular, visible patrols and also targeted operations to catch shoplifters, support retailers and offer crime prevention advice where appropriate.
“This has included extra resources in the area as part of Operation Advance, a dedicated week of action during Safer 6 and we’ve also been involved in Safer Business Action Week.
“We’ll continue to have targeted operations which support the ongoing daily activity we do, alongside our partners, to prevent crime and make sure the town centre remains a great place for visitors and workers to come.”