A POLITICIAN has hit back at a survey which claimed people living in the South enjoy a far higher quality of life than those in northern areas of the country.
Just four of the top 50 local authority areas that have the best quality of life are outside the South, and all of these are in the Midlands, according to the research published yesterday by high street bank Halifax.
Hambleton is the highest ranked area of the Yorkshire and the Humber region in terms of quality of life, and it ranks just 78th overall, while Castle Morpeth in the North East comes 114th and Congleton in the North-West is 121st.
However, Hambleton District Council leader Neville Huxtable, who moved to Yorkshire 13 years ago from Kent, maintained that the north of England provides a far higher quality of life than the survey suggested.
Coun Huxtable said: "Hambleton has always been and will continue to be a pleasant, safe and very enjoyable place to live.
"I do think Hambleton should be far higher in the table which has been compiled in the research.
"Having moved up to Yorkshire, I can understand what we have here in the north of the country and what the southern half is missing out on."
The MP for Thirsk and Malton, Anne McIntosh, whose constituency covers Hambleton, claimed that a lack of funding from Westminster was heightening the divide.
She said: "People do enjoy a good quality of life in North Yorkshire, but the county gets one of the worst funding deals for both health and education. There is a growing divide between urban and rural areas, and the coalition Government needs to look at how funding is distributed."
Elmbridge in Surrey topped the table for offering the best quality of life for the third year running, based on a range of factors including health and life expectancy, employment, school results, crime, house sizes and the weather.
The group found that 95 per cent of people in Elmbridge were in good health, while they had a higher than average life expectancy of 81.4 years. In addition, 75 per cent of people were employed, earning higher than average weekly incomes of 1,018.
Schools in the area produced above average results, while the area enjoys more sunshine and less rain than the rest of the UK.
Hart in Hampshire boasts the second highest quality of life, followed by Wokingham in Berkshire, Sevenoaks in Kent and South Cambridgeshire.
Overall, two thirds of the top 50 local authority areas that have the best quality of life are in the South-East, while 11 are in the East, two are in the South-West and just one, Richmond upon Thames, is in London.
Aberdeenshire is the highest ranked place in Scotland in terms of quality of life, but it comes only 178th overall, while Monmouthshire is the top place to live in Wales but ranks only 189th nationally.
The research found that northern areas tended to receive high ratings for exam results and environmental measures, such as low population densities and low levels of traffic, while southern areas were more likely to rank highly on average earnings, employment levels, health and weather.
Ryedale in North Yorkshire and the Shetland Islands had the highest employment levels, both at 86.1 per cent, while average earnings were highest in Kensington and Chelsea, the City of London and Westminster.
The Isle of Wight was the sunniest place in Britain and Castle Point in Essex receives the least rain.
Halifax housing economist Nitesh Patel said: "The old adage of 'Health, wealth and happiness' is the traditional measure of a good quality of life."