3 January 2009

Original post 3 January 2009. Note on average pay in Cornwall added 30 April 2009.

The economic crisis hits many people in Cornwall (and elsewhere) hard. Look at just two aspects of life here. The mean average pay in Cornwall is about seventy five percent of the UK average according to the GMB trade union. ASHE data for 2008 suggests around eighty percent. County averages encompass a large range and also variations among different and smaller subareas but they can be useful and limited guides. House prices in Cornwall are high (with the same caveat about range and variations). Affordable housing thus matters to local people looking for a home.

Look a little more closely at housing and pay.

We need many more affordable houses to be built throughout Cornwall – to rent and to buy. The Labour government has failed appallingly over the last decade to push house building. It talked houses but little got built, affordable or open market. This isn’t likely to change now as finance and the economy seize up unless the government and local councils are pushed very hard. I fear the economic crisis is more likely to see the shortage of affordable housing in Cornwall continue.

In our low wage economy, Labour’s minimum wage has been a godsend to many in Cornwall. Now we are hearing arguments that the minimum wage should be frozen at the present rate during the economic crisis. Of course, the wage has to be affordable by employers, an unaffordable wage bill puts firms out of business or leads to firings, but I remember that the national minimum wage was brought in to a background of miswarnings about unaffordability and job losses, Tory opposition, and Liberal Democrat nonsense.

Happily, the local Liberal Democrats are now firm in their support for it. However, the Tories now seem to be ready to see the minimum wage end.

It is unacceptable that those at the bottom of life’s financial heap should suffer further and unnecessarily financially. Labour’s record on poverty is patchy with its disastrous abolition of the 10 pence tax rate and its inexplicable failure to take the poor out of income tax altogether, two kick-the-poor policies, on the negative side. There are welcome signals that the guilty government does not support a freeze on the national minimum wage.

The minimum wage is £5.73 an hour at present for those over twenty two; that is modest pay.

Here is how we give real recognition to the people of Cornwall in this economic crisis:

We should build many more affordable houses in Cornwall, social housing for rent and low-cost housing to buy, because many people here, who cannot buy on the open market, need them and building provides jobs and funnels money into the local economy. The minimum wage, a lifeline to many in Cornwall, should increase normally because industry and commerce can afford it, the wage funnels money into the economy, and the poor and low paid should never be held down but always helped up.

Note on average pay in Cornwall

I put below the median average pay taken from ASHE table 8.7a for 2008: it is the gross annual pay for fulltime workers based on residence by local authority area in Cornwall.

There are numerous figures for average pay: median average pay, mean average pay (higher than median because of some very large salaries), and median and mean figures based on workplace as well as on place of residence, fulltime or part time work, male or female workers, or all; and based on residence and workplace by local authority and by constituency; and of course pay that is not simply gross.

Average pay, eh?

Anyway, here are the ASHE figures for Cornwall for annual gross median average, residence-based by local authority, full time working, for 2008: £21 004. Divided by fifty two that’s about £404 a week.

As I’ve said at the beginning of this post and indeed often about statistics, the figures vary across Cornwall

Previous ASHE data is here.

ASHE: Annual survey of hours and earnings


See here for an earlier post about the minimum wage in Cornwall

See this Guardian article of 6 January 2009 about the low rate of construction.