The upbeat appraisal comes from John Mitchell who has represented Langlee on Scottish Borders Council for the past 19 years.
One of four Galashiels and District members, Councillor Mitchell was reacting to a statistical community profile of the entire estate, posted on the SBC website last week and compiled by the council’s research and development officer Heidi Goodsmith.
The study shows that in 2011 Langlee had a total population of 2,539, with 1,576 people of working age, 490 children aged 15 or under and 473 pensioners.
It thus has a younger age profile than the Scottish Borders average with a smaller proportion of pensioners (18.6%, compared to 24%) and a higher ratio of children (19.3%, compared to 17%) and working age people (62.1%, compared to 58.5%).
In November, 2012, 29.9% (34.1% of men and 26% of women) of people of working age in Langlee were claiming “key benefits”, including Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit or other income-related benefits, compared to just 12.5% (13.5% men, 11.5% women) across the Borders.
When broken down by age, the percentage of these claimants was: Aged 16-24 – 29% (12.2% in Borders); aged 25-49 – 32.1% (12.3%); aged 50-64 – 26.7% (12.8%).
The study looks at Job Seekers Allowance as a measure of unemployment and reports that 170 people, or 10.3% of those of working age, were claiming that benefit, compared to 2.8% across the region as a whole.
“This is by far the highest unemployment rate of any locality within the Scottish Borders,” states Ms Goodsmith. “The rates are high in both genders and in all age groups, indicating that, for some families, unemployment is a lifelong challenge.
“The current high unemployment rate began at the onset of the economic downturn from 2008 onwards, reaching crisis point from 2010…the very latest provisional figures appear to show unemployment is now beginning to level off and may be decreasing slightly, but it is still extremely high.”
The report then focuses on hospital admissions for chronic health conditions and lifestyle related illnesses.
Admissions for cancer (2,048 per 100,000 of the population) and strokes (150) were below the Borders average of 1,673 and 349 respectively.
However, Langlee had more emergency admissions (17.478 per 100,000, compared to 12,163 across the region), and more admissions for coronary heart disease (827, compared to 597), respiratory disease (2,558, compared to 1,673) and accidents (2,481, compared to 1,482).
Ms Goodsmith observes: “Langlee’s rates of coronary heart disease and respiratory disease and its rate of emergency admissions, which are party lifestyle-related, are much higher and its rate of accidents is almost twice the Scottish average and significantly higher than the Borders average.
“Lifestyle-related causes of morbidity and incapacity are strongly linked to deprivation, due to the knock-on effect of such poor health on other aspects of the individual’s wellbeing, that of their families and of the community in which they live.”
The percentage of Langlee mothers breastfeeding at their first postnatal visit in 2011/12 was 44.4%, compared to 51.6% across the Borders, while the numbers exclusively breastfeeding after 6-8 weeks was 23.5% (32.5%).
The percentage of Langlee women smoking at the booking of their pregnancies between 2009-11 was 38.8% (22.8%) and the number who had never smoked at that point was 48.5% (62%).
The percentage of first time mothers aged 19 or under over that period was 34%, compared to just 11.8% in the Borders as a whole and a Scottish average of 12.9%.
“These statistics imply higher levels of social and health deprivation for babies and new mothers in Langlee,” states the report.
“Maternal smoking and low levels of breastfeeding are known to correlate with lack of wellbeing and increased ill-health in babies and young children and both are at levels in Langlee that are poorer than the regional and national averages.
“Antenatal smoking is already higher in the Borders than the Scottish average [19.3%] and in Langlee 38.8% of women admit to smoking during their current pregnancy.
“Many more decline to answer the question…so levels could be much higher.
“Teenage pregnancy is also considerably higher in Langlee than the Scottish average. While planning to start a family at a younger age can be a positive decision, a higher level of teenage pregnancy in a small community is regarded as an indicator of deprivation, particularly if the area also has high levels of benefits dependency and poor educational outcomes…and is a cause for concern for the long-term welfare of the mother and for the child.”
Turning to education, the report reveals that 29.4% of Langlee pupils received free school meals in 2009, compared to 9.6% across the region, while the number of secondary students with additional support needs was 30.9% (12%). The secondary school attendance rate in 2010/11 for Langlee pupils was 86.5% (91.8%).
“Pupils resident in Langlee are almost four times more likely to be excluded from school than the Borders average and female pupils in particular are less likely to stay on at school past the age of 16 than pupils elsewhere in the Borders and Scotland,” states the report.
On educational attainment, the report considers exam results from 2011/12 and states: “Secondary pupils resident in Langlee have a significantly lower examination attainment rate than the Borders and Scottish averages at all stages and levels in the senior year groups.
“Results at S4 level are particularly poor, with only 46.4% of Langlee pupils attaining five awards at SCQF level 4 at the end of S4, which is almost half the Borders average of 83.0%.
“Even poorer, only 10.7% of S4 pupils attained five awards at SCQF Level 5 ['Credit’ Standard Grade] - a quarter of the Scottish Borders average - which they would need if they were to aspire to higher education.
“The figures suggest that 17.9% of Langlee pupils leave school without the minimum standards of literacy and numeracy at the end of S4, failing to attain a pass in English and Maths at 'foundation’ Standard Grade.”
The report concludes that, based on all the statistics, two of Langlee’s three so-called datazones – the Kenilworth Avenue and Langlee Drive areas – fall into the 15% most deprived in Scotland. The least deprived part of the estate is the Hawthorn Road area.
Only five datazones in the Borders fall into the 15% group – the others are all within the Burnfoot area of Hawick.
Councillor Mitchell said the statistics for Langlee were “already, in some instances, slightly historic”.
“The arrival of the railway works will have boosted employment as well as the hospitality trades and retailers,” he told the Border Telegraph.
“Although there is little land available in Langlee for more industrial or commercial activity, the units at the community centre are well utilised.
“The council is investing in apprenticeships for which local youngsters can apply and has a business loan fund, along with European monies which will be helpful to the area generally.
“In terms of community health, the integration of health and social care will have a beneficial effect.
“It is certainly not all doom and gloom. We have a terrific school in Langlee and the council is working to improve the whole school estate in Galashiels.
“The Langlee Carnival, organised by and for local people, goes from strength to strength. The Langlee Residents Association has merged with the Waverley tenants organisation for the benefit of all.
“Several community centre initiatives are flourishing, including the orchard and the Men’s Shed where skills are shared.
“Langlee may still have its problems, but it is a strong, vibrant, thriving and developing community and I believe the statistics in a few years time will be far better.”