7 April 2010

In the next weeks we shall hear many promises about what parties will do if put in power. In this post I look not at promises about tomorrow but at what Labour has actually done that has helped people in Cornwall since 1997.

I explained in an earlier post of 2008 why I think Labour in Cornwall is probably done for at present, 2009 was worse, and I think there will be more chastening results for the party here next month though hope flickers for it in the Camborne and Redruth constituency. Before all is lost in a sour miasma of forgetfulness contrived by the other parties, let me set down the Labour record for Cornwall, some of the main things that Labour has done to make life better for people here since May 1997 – and there are additionally technological and ecological developments like the wave hub.

The list of Labour achievements does not tell the whole story of course; there have been grim failures and Labour has been too relaxed about people getting ‘filthy rich’. However, Labour’s achievements are not mere political barebones. They are what has made life better, much better, for many people in Cornwall. They matter. Amid the very many disappointments and indeed anger about the Labour government, these are the stars.

The economic crisis is making life much more difficult, everything is not glowing, and elections are about the future rather than the past, about which party we think will get us through the next turn, handle the deficit best and have the best timing and balance of spending cuts and tax rises. These achievements nevertheless show what progressives have achieved and what they can build on.


Mandatory national minimum wage introduced and increased more than inflation

Maternity pay increased more than inflation

Paid maternity leave more than doubled

Sure Start

Child tax credit

Child trust funds introduced

Free nursery places for 3 and 4 year olds

Increased funding for education

Old age pensions increased more than inflation

Number of qualifying years needed for a full basic state pension reduced

Winter fuel payment, now benefiting more than 130 000 people in Cornwall

Free bus passes for people aged 60 and over

Free eye tests for people aged 60 and over

Increased funding for the NHS

Reduced waiting times for NHS treatment

Section 28 scrapped

Civil partnerships

Enhanced equality rules introduced

Large inroads made into child and pensioner poverty


RPI inflation
May 1997 index 156.3; February 2010 index 219.2; inflation of 40 percent.

Minimum wage
The minimum wage, whose importance to many people here is inestimable, is £5.93 an hour (full adult rate) from October 2010. When it began in April 1999 it was £3.60. After this October’s uprating that will be an increase in real terms of about 22 percent, that is after taking inflation into account. Two thirds of UK recipients are women.

Cornwall pay
In 1997 the median pay of fulltime workers was £250 a week, in 2010 it was £402.50 a week (by place of work in Cornwall), an above-inflation nominal increase of 61 percent and a larger percentage increase than for England as a whole (ASHE annual tables 7.1a).

Maternity pay
In 1997 statutory maternity pay was £55.70 a week; in 2009 it was £123.06 a week, an above-inflation nominal increase of 121 percent.

Paid maternity leave
Paid maternity leave was 18 weeks in 1997 and is now 39 weeks.

The basic old age pension in 1997/98 was £62.45 for a single person and £99.80 for a couple. It is now £97.65 for a single person and £156.15 for a couple. Those are both increases of about 12 percent in real terms. (The pension credit, formerly minimum guaranteed income, is now £132.60 a week for a single person and £202.40 for a couple.) About 900 000 pensioners have been taken out of relative poverty since 1997.
From April 2010 the number of National Insurance qualifying years for a full basic state pension is reduced to 30 years for both men and women; formerly 44 and 39 years.

Hansard 27 February 2008 columns 1754W-1756W gives the reductions in NHS waiting times for Cornwall, 1997-2007.

Since 1997 there has been a 38 percent real-terms increase in perpupil funding in Cornwall (Hansard 2 February 2010 column 70)
Teachers average pay in Cornwall has risen by 59 percent since 1997 (DCSF)
Number of full-time equivalent teachers in Cornwall has increased by 13 percent since 1997 (Hansard 4 February 2010 column 474W).

Some other posts
Labour helps Cornwall (local government finance)

Labour’s education record

Vote Tory today, cry tomorrow

Labour helps 130 000 in cold Cornwall