14 May 2015

A light amidst the gloom of May 7.

I see that Jude Robinson won a seat for Labour on Cornwall unitary council in a by-election in Camborne. She is very able and I warmly welcome her return to the council to strengthen the progressive group of members. When she was previously on the council she was the one who first publicly pressed the living wage upon the councillors; she paved the way and opened minds to its adoption.

Related post

Cheers, Jude Robinson 29 October 2012


28 November 2014

Time for a reminder that London and the southeast, those replete ogres and fatcat monsters of Cornish political nationalist and piranist fantasy, are not of a piece. There is poverty and deprivation there too.

First, here is a recent report on a London from the Centre for London telling a story that many in Cornwall appear not to know about: Hollow promise: how London fails people on modest incomes and what should be done about it (September 2014). And there’s London’s poverty profile 2013 another account of poverty in the golden streets.

Second, here are a couple of reports on poverty in Kent in the southeast:

Huge numbers of Kent children living in poverty

The hidden problem of poverty in Kent

I mentioned recently the comparison made by John Pollard, the leader of Cornwall Council, of rural Cornwall with pampered urban Hackney in London and showed how deprived many people, adults and children, in Hackney were. Last year in the post Mirror, mirror, on the wall, where’s the poorest of us all I pointed out that it is part of a ward in Essex that is the poorest of us all.

The UK government has cut its funds to Cornwall Council (and other councils) and the Council has in turn had to cut its spending on most services. I think we are seeing a fundamental rejigging of local government in England that is spasmodic, unplanned, and undiscussed. Anyway, Newcastle council has compared the cuts 2010/11-2013/14 for each council in England. You can access the data here; and it also gives the 2010 rankings for the Index of multiple deprivation (IMD) of each local authority.

Note that Cornwall has had cash cuts of £95.16 per person during 2010/11-1014/15. That puts Cornwall at 120 out of 324 local authorities (where 1 is worst). As I have written so many times, Cornwall is not uniquely deprived and poor; there are many places in England (and the rest of the UK) that experience more deprivation; and Cornwall is not singled out for unfair funding.

Back to the Pollard comparison: let me point out that the Newcastle data shows that Hackney had a cut of £337.91 per person, that is the largest cash cut of the 324.

Yes, there is great wealth for some people in parts of London and the southeast; there is also great poverty. The Cornwall county flag may be black and white but life seldom is.


25 February 2014

The recent floods have brought mention of the Bellwin scheme which gives financial help to local authorities in emergencies such as floods. You can read about the scheme in the pdf at the foot of this parliamentary library note.

Cornwall Council begins a journey to justice for the low paid

The living wage has just gone up to £7.65 an hour in Cornwall and elsewhere in Britain outside London. That is the decency threshold, the rate of pay that makes a decent life livable for adults and children.

The wage reaches people who are paid too little to pay income tax but who probably pay national insurance which kicks in at a much lower level than tax.

The Labour party has said that a Labour government would encourage the living wage by giving employers a tax break; in effect they would get back 32 pence for every £1 the living wage costs them. That shows a seriousness of intent by Labour. From the others, only occasional warm words; the other parties of progress and reform must do much better.

Around four hundred companies and organisations, large and small, in Britain are paying the living wage. In Cornwall Sunshine Care is paying the wage and Penzance town council is moving towards paying it. They are pioneers and deserve warm congratulations; Cornwall in general, however, is falling short of the decency threshold of the living wage.

Again the challenge is to Cornwall Council as the county’s major public body to begin to move to a living wage for all its employees – and those of its contractors – to seize the moment and build on Jude Robinson’s initiative.

The excellent news is that Cornwall Council is indeed taking the first steps towards paying the living wage. On Tuesday the committee of councillors with the unbelievable name of the Recruitment and performance portfolio advisory committee started the process towards implementation. It resolved to ask the leader of the council and chief executive to look at the mulifaceted details of a living wage “with a view to taking such steps as are necessary to implement the Living Wage” for Cornwall Council employees. Agenda item 7 of the meeting gives a sound and comprehensive exploration of the question here.

Although in theory the council might decide against progress, it is difficult to see anything stopping the living wage happening now. The example from Cornwall Council can be used as a spur for other large employers here, the RCHT hospitals for example. Sunshine Care and Penzance Council are a spur for smaller employers in Cornwall.

There remains the issue of contractors. I think the council should also explore how it might get every contractor also to pay the living wage to their people working indirectly for the council. I hope that is looked at too.

Congratulations to Cornwall Council; well, specifically to the committee with the long name. They have understood social and economic justice and its complexity and have bravely done what is just and right. We should all be pleased.

The work is not yet done. Those of us who support the living wage for Cornwall Council should be ready to argue the rightness and feasibility of meeting the cost in a time of austerity.

Notes and previous posts on the living wage are here

The living wage (House of Commons library note) 11 November 2013 [Added to this post 13 November 2013]

Penzance town council, a living wage employer 29 October 2013

Cornwall Council and the living wage 16 August 2013

Living wage for Cornwall 22 July 2013

Cheers, Jude Robinson 29 October 2012

A proper Cornish wage 10 May 2012

Progress to a living wage 29 June 2011

A living wage for Cornwall 17 May 2011

The pro-Cornish wage 31 August 2010

And these are relevant

What are the benefits of the living wage? from the Living Wage Foundation

Home truths by Vidhya ALEKESON and Giselle CORY, Resolution Foundation 12 July 2013

Low pay Britain by Matthew PENNYCOOK and Matthew WHITTAKER, Resolution Foundation 29 September 2012

What price a living wage? Matthew PENNYCOOK, Resolution Foundation 7 May 2012

Minimum wage: maximum impact Alan MANNING, Resolution Foundation 17 April 2012

Suppose you were writing a council budget at a time of financial difficulties. You have a choice.

(a) freeze council tax, mend pot holes, and cut car parking charges, but also destroy around 135 council jobs and cut £1.6 million from employee funds for vulnerable adults and children, cuts which will adversely affect the services to them; or

(b) put council tax up by 1.97 percent, don’t destroy 135 jobs, maintain funding for adults and children who are in need, keep up the car parking charges, and patch the potholes for the time being.

The other day Cornwall councillors chose.

Forty nine chose (b) but fifty two chose (a).

The Libdems had proposed (a) as an amendment to the Tory/Independent Cabinet’s budget and voted for it with support from some Tories apparently out to embarrass. Labour’s sole councillor and Mebyon Kernow councillors voted against (a).

No doubt in May the Libdem election leaflets will cry up the council tax freeze and potholes. They will not mention the loss of 135 jobs and the cuts against the adults and children in need. They should not get away with half a story but the fullness of what they have done should be told.

The Libdem budget also expects the collection rate for council tax, already high in Cornwall, to increase. Hmmm. I think the recession and the removal of the council tax exemption from the poor in Cornwall is more likely to lead to a fall in the collection rate. How much do bailiffs cost?

For next year the Libdem decision to keep the council tax unchanged means that at the council-tax-setting cost inflation will have created a large hole in council finances and consequently, with a lesser tax base due to the freeze, a large rise in council tax or a large cut to services will follow. That will be well after the May 2013 elections of course.

I think that the Libdem budget shows financial naivety and an unacceptable order of priorities.

Also read
Jude Robinson (Labour) and Andrew Wallis (Independent) and Lance Kennedy (former Tory) have comments on the budget and manoeuvrings that are well worth reading.

UPDATE 7 February 2013
Haringey Council wins case but appeal to be made

ORIGINAL POST 1 February 2013
Read here about legal challenges to recruiting the very poor into paying council tax and cutting the council tax benefit so that people receiving it pay more council tax. If any of these challenges succeeds will Cornwall Council be affected?


29 October 2012

First, let me thank and congratulate Jude Robinson, the only Labour member of Cornwall unitary council, for introducing the living wage, an unprincely £7.20 an hour, to her fellow councillors. She did this in an amendment to the motion on councillors’ pay; her amendment asked for a report on “how we might fund a living wage for low paid staff” at the council (webcast at 4:22:45). It failed miserably, but I think – well, I hope – that was because the rest of the Robinson pay amendment displeased the councillors. Bless too those other councillors who voted for it.

I hope she, and other councillors of progress and reform, will press on with this issue of the living wage. The council should be encouraged to tackle this injustice of low pay for its employees. These are difficult economic times but the low paid in its employ should be a priority for it. We should not build Cornwall’s prosperity on the backs of the poor and low paid.

In the meantime, very well done Jude Robinson – and her Labour party.

Now I should like to see the reformers in the other parties follow and campaign within the council for a living wage. Claims to be progressive do not cut it: what is wanted is the practical justice of moves to a living wage.

Earlier posts on Cornwall living wage

A proper Cornish wage 10 May 2012

Progress to a living wage 29 June 2011

A living wage for Cornwall 17 May 2011

The pro-Cornish wage 31 August 2010

And these are relevant

Low pay Britain by Matthew PENNYCOOK and Matthew WHITTAKER, Resolution Foundation 29 September 2012

What price a living wage? Matthew PENNYCOOK, Resolution Foundation 7 May 2012

Minimum wage: maximum impact Alan MANNING, Resolution Foundation 17 April 2012