22 February 2008

Another set of data shows Cornwall is far from the most deprived part of England. This data refers to the proportion of children aged 0-15 in parliamentary constituencies in households dependent on workless benefits. These benefits are income support, jobseekers allowance, incapacity benefit, severe disablement benefit, or pension credit.

Here are the results for the five Cornwall constituencies for April 2007:

Falmouth and Camborne 21.1 percent

St Ives 17.2 percent

North Cornwall 16.1 percent

Truro and St Austell 15.5 percent

Southeast Cornwall 13.7 percent

These figures come from the department for work and pensions in answer to a parliamentary question on 6 February 2008 (DEP 2008-0366). For comparison the ‘best’ constituency has 5.1 percent and the ‘worst’ has 49.2 percent. The average for England, Scotland, and Wales is 19.9 percent.

The Cornwall constituencies fall in the middle of the range for England. Here are their percentile ranks (worked out by me):

Southeast Cornwall 68th percentile, Truro and St Austell 61st, North Cornwall 59th, St Ives 53rd, Falmouth and Camborne 38th. Percentile rank means Southeast Cornwall, for example, is as good as or better than 68 percent of the 529 constituencies. ‘As good as or better than’ means the lower the percentage (and the higher the percentile rank) for benefit-dependency, the better.

There are 202 constituencies in England which have a higher percentage of benefit-dependent children than the highest scoring Cornwall constituency, Falmouth and Camborne.

Now I think it is disturbing and unacceptable that very roughly one in six children in Cornwall are in households dependent on out-of-work benefits. It is, frankly, a poor start in life for them and we should be doing much more to help their parent(s) into profitable work if possible and to increase benefits for those who genuinely cannot work. We have to try not to punish children for the failings of their parents while trying to show them that for the able work pays and is important for self-respect. I believe the marxist saw, From each according to his ability and to each according to his need, is an excellent recipe for a good society.

However, to be parochial again, though there is serious deprivation in parts of the county, constituencies in Cornwall are not at the bottom of this workless-benefits league table. It’s getting repetitive, isn’t it, saying this sort of thing? Look at the numerous posts making the point. The evidence is very clear: people in Cornwall are not singled out for unfair treatment by central government; and they are not, taken generally, sitting at the bottom of the heap. The grievance agenda is tosh.