12 September 2014

The other day John Pollard, the leader of Cornwall Council, talking about the funding by central government of rural and urban areas in England, said, “We currently receive less than half the money per head of population than that given to Hackney”.

Even if you think there is an urban/rural imbalance in funding and it should be righted, this is an ill-advised comparison. I’ve noted before simplistic Cornwall comparisons: see here for an MK one.

Anyway, let’s take up the challenge and compare Cornwall and Hackney over several fields.

I have chosen from the numerous fields that show how much more widespread deprivation and poverty are in Hackney than in Cornwall, aspects that should figure in the redistribution of central government funds to local authorities. Disadvantage impacts upon local government spending on services like housing, education, social care, and culture. Of course in some fields Hackney does better but the decider factors of government redistribution point to Hackney worse off than Cornwall. And of course in some fields, for example job seeker’s allowance for the unemployed, the funding is separate from that given directly to local councils. I am trying to show how Hackney suffers wide disadvantage.

I give a link to the online sources at the end of each section; note that at the source there may be other tables presenting information in various ways.

Note 4 April 2015: I have put here up-to-date data for the various items as in the post Fair funding for Cornwall of 3 April 2015

Index of multiple deprivation 2010 (next IMD due 2015)
This is a major measure of deprivation across several components such as income and housing. I have taken the rank of scores where 1 indicates the worst overall deprivation of 326 local authorities:

Cornwall 110
Hackney 2 (that is, worse than 324 of the 326 local authorities)


Free school meals
Percentage of pupils eligible for and claiming free school meals, January 2014, in state funded nursery and primary schools and secondary school

Cornwall 13.5% in nursery and primary schools, 11.9% in secondary schools
Hackney 30.2% in nursery and primary schools, 33.9% in secondary schools


Child poverty 2014
Cornwall 16.90% of children in poverty (before housing costs), 26.35 percent (after housing costs)
Hackney 27.46% of children in poverty (before housing costs), 41.37 percent (after housing costs)


Deprivation among pupils
The proportion of pupils eligible for the deprivation pupil premium 2014-2015 (provisional figures):
Cornwall primary pupils 22.5%, secondary 24.2%
Hackney primary pupils 48%, secondary 55.6 %


Bedroom tax
How many are adversely affected by the bedroom tax? These are the percentages for 9 May 2014, the latest available, of the tenants with housing benefit who have that housing benefit reduced because of the bedroom tax/spare room subsidy and the average weekly amount lost:

Cornwall 6.1%, £14.03
Hackney 8.1%, £21.07


Job seekers allowance
This is a measure of unemployment; the figures are the percentage of men and women aged 18-65 claiming job seeker’s allowance in July 2014:

Cornwall 1.4%
Hackney 3.6%

Source Put in the local authority name

Why does Hackney get more than Cornwall?
Why does Hackney get more? Hmm, I wonder if it’s anything to do with the scale of derivation and poverty and disadvantage that the data in the first part of this post shows? Cornwall is not a victim, unfairly funded in general; there are administrative areas of England worse off than us and they rightly get more government help. As I have explained ages ago, we can home in on particular places of severe disadvantage in Cornwall and elsewhere in England and should certainly help them.

Per pupil funding 2014-2015
Incidentally, the per pupil funding for 2014-2015 shows that 56 England local authorities get less than Cornwall. While some are notably prosperous places, the lesser funded also include places like Plymouth, Bury, and Nottinghamshire. The details are in Appendix B here. Of course Hackney gets noticeably more per pupil than Cornwall but you can understand that now.

Let’s end on good news for some in Cornwall. The Good pub guide 2015 says the average pint of beer in London costs £3.79. In Cornwall it’s £3.19.

Don’t forget to check the original sources to see the smallprint explanations.

The details of the 2014/15 local government funding by central government (the Settlement Funding Assessment)are here. Appendix B shows that Hackney is the highest per-dwelling funded of all the London authorities; several have lower per-dwelling funding than Cornwall.

On 16 September 2014 the Centre for London publishes London’s hollow promise: how the city fails people on modest incomes and what should be done about it, its report on working households in London on low to modest incomes and the housing difficulties and cost of living they face.

There is an update at the foot of the post and a link to a later post

As part of the Tory Libdem changes to welfare two discretionary aspects of the social fund previously administered by the Department for work and pensions (DWP), crisis loans and community care grants, have been abolished. From April 2013 funds have been given by central government to local authorities for a replacement local welfare scheme. In Cornwall this is called the Crisis and care awards scheme.

Very briefly, the scheme gives help to low-income people in an emergency with living expenses and helps vulnerable people with, for example, household equipment, to enable them to live in the community. Cornwall Council has excellent leaflets on its website here explaining the scheme.

In 2013/14 Cornwall was given £985 074 by central government for the scheme (and additional separate funds for administration).

It gave £647,724.25 of those funds to 2272 successful applications. That’s about 66 percent of the total funds the council received and about 55 percent of total applications.

The council did not distribute £337 000 of its allocated funds as crisis and care awards. It gave £150 000 of that to Citizens Advice Bureau for advice to people the council referred to it. That’s a wise use of the undistributed funds. And the rest of it? That money, meant for the vulnerable and poor in Cornwall, went into the council’s general funds.

Cornwall has been given the same amount for the scheme from central government for 2014/15 so that looks like another by-gift from the desperate to the council’s funds.

Cornwall Council should look carefully at its local criteria for these awards to make sure nobody in need is being excluded who could be included. Could the criteria reasonably be loosened? While protecting people’s privacy, is it possible for the council to give as examples details of some applications refused so that we can be reassured about the criteria in practice? A much smaller proportion of applications were successful in 2013/14 compared with the data for 2005/06 and 2009/10 in Appendix D here but some reduction was expected because of the changes in arrangements for distribution.

If the council indeed has the awarding spot on, and that may very well be so, central government has been too generous in its allocation to Cornwall. Perhaps in that case rather than absorb the undistributed surplus into general funds the council could, if permissible, give it or its equivalent to the foodbanks in the county: they are another working scheme for crisis and care scheme for people here.

More worrying is the Tory Libdem government’s intention to end the scheme at the end of the current financial year. Councils will be expected to meet the needs of the present scheme from the general funds given to them by central government, what we call their own resources. That is a severe challenge. I hope Cornwall Council is already planning how it will do this.

Update 13 November 2014
The Department for work and pensions has published Local welfare provision review (November 2014). You can access it from Deposited parliamentary papers (DEP 2014-1442 of 10 November 2014). Page 21 gives some possible reasons for underspending the funds by local authorities.

Later post
Government dumps the vulnerable 24 December 2014

The news about child poverty is grim. After four years of Tory Libdem government we now know that the 2020 targets for reducing the poverty will be missed. The Labour government made commendable progress on reducing child poverty but overall its record was patchy and disappointing; however, the current government has worsened that.

The details are set out by the Social mobility and child poverty commission in its report Understanding parental employment scenarios necessary to meet the 2020 child poverty targets (June 2014). Read it here. Note the judgement: “It is impossible to meet the absolute or relative poverty targets even with unfeasibly large increases in parental employment” (page 42). Actually, two thirds of children in poverty are in working households.

In 2010/11 the proportions of children in relative and absolute poverty were 17 percent and 20 percent. By 2020 those figures are likely to be 21 percent and 24 percent. (These are the figures before housing costs.)

The report notes that the Institute for fiscal studies (IFS) presents a worse picture of 22.5 percent and 27.9 percent: see page 67.

On the heels of the news about the child poverty targets the Trussell Trust tells us that in 2013/14 it gave emergency food aid to 330 205 children in Britain. The Trust has food banks in Cornwall at Bude, Callington, Helston, Launceston, Liskeard, Penryn, Saltash, St Austell, Truro, and Wadebridge. Other organisations have food banks elsewhere in Cornwall and Britain so the Trussell figures necessarily understate the scale and help.

The Trussell Trust, Oxfam, and Church action on poverty have put out the report Below the breadline: the relentless rise of food poverty in Britain (June 2014) which looks at poverty in detail. You can access the free report through their websites.

This poverty is scandalous, a moral and practical failure. Large tranches of our people are being left in a dismal want that distorts their present and future lives, that wastes their talent and robs them and us of their skills. We can do better than this – and the living wage of Cornwall Council and a few others here will help. Let us see what realistic and thought-out practical policies the parties come up with to mitigate and eventually erase child poverty.

Notes and previous posts
I have written several posts about child poverty: these are the most recent. Be sure to read the definition of poverty, relative and absolute, in the various reports.

More hungry people, more foodbanks 17 October 2013

Suffer little children 2 September 2013

Cornwall child poverty costs 19 July 2013

Child poverty still with us 15 June 2012

Child poverty in Cornwall 2012 22 February 2012

Child poverty up and up and up 13 October 2011

Child poverty: yesterday and tomorrow 16 May 2011

Here is the CPAG report by Rys FARTHING Local authorities and child poverty: balancing threats and opportunities (July 2013). It is also accessible from here.

Here is the 2012 report from the End Child Poverty.

Section 6.4 in Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK: 2013 (IFS) discusses child poverty over time.

Desired by some, perhaps many, the decision to put the Cornish in the Council of Europe national minority scheme is nevertheless at this time largely a party political gimmick. It owes much to Liberal Democrat election anxieties. In practice nothing significant will change.

Those who confidently see themselves as Cornish will rightly continue confidently to do so and cheerfully celebrate their identity. They have known all along they are Cornish. Those who think that unconvincing will still think it. The reconstructed Cornish language will continue to be admired but spoken fluently by next to nobody. The distinctive Cornish culture will continue to be happily celebrated and claims for uniqueness will continue to bewilder those who see distinctive cultures everywhere in England and wince at Darkie Day while they celebrate well dressing and the Lambton Worm and street dancing. Cornish place names will continue to be celebrated and in the rest of England so will every thorp and by and thwaite and law. The claims for a distinct ethnic/racial group will continue to struggle with our commonality, the knowledge that we are all migrants from Africa, and qualms about making racial markers. In short, we shall all continue to rub along with one another.

The people of Cornwall, however they see their identity, still won’t vote nationalist in any numbers. The arguments against a nationalist and separatist assembly still remain.

There are assurances – from politicians – that there will be no additional money involved. However, it will be interesting to see whether there are over time calls upon British taxpayers for funds for promoting a thousand and one things that will no doubt be called identity heritage.

What matters most in Cornwall
Cornwall is still a county of England. The everyday issues that affect the lives, happiness, and prosperity of people are still here. The framework convention for the protection of national minorities will not grow the Cornwall economy; will not build more much needed affordable housing for locals and provide all-year-round jobs with decent pay; will not make up for the cuts in council tax support and housing benefit; will not lessen deprivation or erase the need for food banks. It is on these we who are here, Cornish and English and British and whatever, should focus relentlessly.

913 138

17 April 2014

I explained what I thought of poverty and the need for foodbanks six months ago in this post. The Trussell Trust, which organises more than four hundred foodbanks in the UK, now says that in it gave three-day food parcels to 913 138 people, adults and children, in 2013/14.

This is vast failure – by government, by parties, by the state, by us. Britain is, despite the economic difficulties, a rich country. To see nearly a million of our fellow people needing food parcels is shaming.

The Trussell Trust points out that its figures represent “the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, it doesn’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no foodbank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food”. The shame deepens.

Much of the need for food parcels is caused by Tory Libdem government incompetence and callousness. Last year the Tory Libdem government stopped claims for benefits in the first seven days of unemployment which left some unemployed people with no money for that week. The Trussell Trust says that half of the referrals of people to its foodbanks are “a result of benefit delays or changes”. We shall not get from the government a serious review of the damaging benefit changes, including brutal sanctioning arrangements, despite the apparent discovery of social justice by Libdems as the general election approaches. However, benefit delays are chiefly a pragmatic question: we really can improve delivery if we are resolved.
In 2010/11, the first year of the Tory Libdem government, there were 61 468 people who came to a Trussell foodbank. The user figures increased under the Labour government too but not by so much.

Here is an earlier post: More hungry people, more foodbanks. It links to other posts.

Added 26 November 2013
The latest data on troubled families from the Department for communities and local government (DCLG) is here. For Cornwall the key data is:
Number of troubled families worked with as at the end of September 2013: 791
Number of families turned round as at the end of October 2013: 199.
This is good progress.

Added 13 September 2013
The Department for communities and local government (DCLG) has published the data about the progress of the troubled families program. See here. In Cornwall there are 1270 troubled families and as at March 2013 222 were being worked with. At January 2013 none had been turned round. Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, said the program is “on track to deliver life changing results”.

Added 9 March 2013
A further update on progress in Cornwall and Devon is in the Western Morning News for 9 March 2013.

Added 23 January 2013
The report The cost of troubled families (January 2013) looks at some analyses of costs and ways of reducing them by increasing the effectiveness of interventions and by reducing demand. A brief note on work in Cornwall is on page 13.

ORIGINAL POST 16 December 2011 and July 2012 addendum
The prime minister has announced a project to turn around 120 000 ‘troubled families’ in England which are estimated to be costing £9 billion a year. The announcement offers a definition of troubled families in its Note 1. The project builds on a Labour one.

There seems to be some haze over the money for the project but apparently central government will put up 40 percent and local authorities will find – I don’t know where from – the other 60 percent.

The source of the number of troubled families seems to be this worksheet. This estimates the number in Cornwall as 1270.

The information also appears less finely on this map.

This family intervention project is a progressive and positive response to a serious issue that blights the lives of children and neighbours and costs us all large money. I don’t expect universal success and paradisal families and neighbourhoods but there should be some improvements and some significant successes. I hope Cornwall Council meets the challenge of the project with much success.

Added to original post 20 July 2012
See in the Guardian (a) this article about troubled families work and (b) these letters in response. Fullfact has an interesting report here.

The imaginary gods and devils of Cornish political nationalism wilt and wither.

We have just had the publication of London’s poverty profile 2013, a report which details several aspects of life in London and its component areas.

It shows, for example, that 2.14 million people in London, 28 percent of all of them, live in poverty and that child poverty in Inner London runs at 43 percent. In Cornwall the latest child poverty figures (2012) from End child poverty is 17 percent though the incidence varies much across the county and is scandalously high in places. End child poverty gives figures for Cornwall constituencies and wards too.

The annual London poverty report is a masterly rebuttal of the dying nationalist myth that the streets of London are paved with gold. Yes, there are many very rich people in London, some getting richer, but there are many poor people too. Like Cornwall, London varies; there is a vast chasm between the rich and poor there. Anyone who knows London and has looked at the indices of multiple deprivation will be unsurprised by the London poverty report. Cornish political nationalists should read it.

There is an excellent discussion of child poverty from End child poverty here.

Notes and earlier posts
The figures for overall poverty and child poverty in London are for 2009/10-2011/12. See chapter 2 of the profile report for details.[This explanatory note added 24 October 2013]

London subsidises our bills 16 February 2012

MK, schools, and the City of London 15 March 2011

English indices of deprivation 2010