"Treat towns like Ilkley the same as Islington over broadband if levelling up to succeed" boomed the headline of yesterday's Yorkshire Post opinion column.
It is wise and fair to check the content of a piece before reacting to its headline.
"People living in Ilkley deserve, and should expect, the same broadband connections as those living in Islington" was the original phrasing. The context was a paragraph arguing for better broadband in Yorkshire to attract and retain talent and thus drive faster economic growth.
So the headline was fair. I expected no less from a consistently reasonable newspaper.
My brow furrowed at my desk as I continued reading.
The UK has excellent data on broadband quality. It is published by Ofcom every year as part of their Connected Nations report.
I downloaded the files and carefully selected the output areas that make up the town of Ilkley. I combined the data to calculate broadband accessibility statistics for Ilkley and put them alongside the pre-calculated data for Islington.
80% of homes in Ilkley can access internet faster than 300mbps. Just 2.5% cannot achieve a speed higher than 30mbps.
82% of homes in Islington can access internet faster than 300mbps. 4.1% cannot achieve a speed higher than 30mbps.
Broadband connections in Ilkley are just as good as in Islington, if anything they are better.
But can people in Ilkley, a Northern town on the periphery of the big cities of Leeds and Bradford, afford the fast broadband that the infrastructure exists to provide them with?
The UK has good data on incomes of small areas. Thanks to past work with Open Data Manchester and at the suggestion of the Centre for Towns, I have already calculated it for every town and city in England. That includes Ilkley and Islington.
Ilkley is one of the most prosperous places in the UK. After housing costs, households in Ilkley have higher incomes than in Islington. Both are far better off than the cities of the North including Bradford, Leeds, Liverpool, and Hull.
Recently Conservative Peer Daniel Moylan wrote that Everything I've read recently in The Yorkshire Post makes me fear I'm going to find Yorkshire transformed into a county of leftist whingers begging for handouts.
Reading the piece I can see where he might get the 'whingers' part from. I'm less convinced that 'leftist' is a good description of the author: pro-Brexit Conservative politician John Longworth.
The piece ends with the argument against Mayors that Longworth makes frequently. "One thing that is not helpful [for levelling up] is trying to put a useless cherry on the top through the creation of more mayors".
The elected Mayor of West Yorkshire would not so deeply misunderstand Yorkshire. Nor would her Conservative opponent had he been elected. Neither would so incorrectly pit Yorkshire against London in an argument for levelling up. They and their teams know that Ilkley does not suffer from poorer broadband than Islington. They know more about where the potential of Yorkshire to grow its economy faster and pay more of its way within the UK lies.
"The answer is most definitely not more bureaucrats and politicians" ends the piece. And while I disagree in general, finding out that the author is both a bureaucrat and a politician made me consider making an exception in this case.