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e.g. Matlock, Dorking, Berkhamsted, Winchester

There are 50 towns which do not fulfil the criteria for any of the clusters, even once. (These are marked with large dots on the map to the right). And there are a further 101 towns which never fulfil all four of the criteria for a given cluster, but which fulfil three for one cluster (marked with smaller dots). There is a very heavy concentration of these places in the Home Counties and on the commuter belt. Harpenden is a classic illustration of this sort of town. 

The towns which are least likely to fit into any of the clusters are those which are small and settled – with neither rapid change nor noticeable decline. They are affluent, networked and plugged into the globalised world.

As relatively affluent areas with high numbers of home owners, these towns are potentially both socially and economically liberal in terms of their politics. In Fear and Hope terms, many will fall into the Mainstream Liberal grouping, with the 2016 Leave vote around 10% lower among towns that do not fall into any of the categories than it is for the towns average. Interestingly, with this said, there remains a Culturally Concerned strand to opinion in ‘no cluster’ towns. But this does not slip into overt hostility, perhaps thanks to being relatively affluent. 

Some of our university towns are in this also in this group, including Cambridge and York. These places are clearly more left-wing, and lean towards Confident Multiculturalism. However, other university hubs – including Oxford and Colchester – fall into two or three clusters. 

Colchester, for instance, indexes higher for migration liberalism but falls partially into the ‘rapid change’ cluster and partially into the ‘competition for resources’ grouping. It is a city with a younger and more diverse population than the national towns average. Even though this sort of demography is generally conducive to more positive attitudes about migration and change, it is not without challenges as a result. 

Liberal centres and small university cities are likely to be more sought after for accommodation, and to have higher housing prices. While this often leads to more liberalism on topics like immigration, and to higher levels of ‘bridging capital’, it can also create significant pressure on accommodation and services. 

Generally, the more that these sorts of cities are diverse and liberal when it comes to cultural issues, the more likely they are to have problems with economic (rather than social) cohesion. 

This can mean many of the problems we already see in inner London, like gentrification, in-work poverty or social exclusion. If we look at the Centre for Cities data on the internal inequality of cities and large towns, for example, we see that those with the highest economic inequality tend to be the most liberal about migration, and vice versa (see Figure 75).

Hence, while some of our towns have higher or lower levels of migration liberalism, it is hard to see a perfect model for a town, even among the places which fit into fewer clusters. 

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