The Tory Libdem management of the economy is failing: their austerity grows and economic growth doesn’t and unemployment is rising. I have charted this rise in the regularly updated Cornwall data post.

The latest claimant count figures for Cornwall – which do not present unemployment in its entirety – are dispiriting.

However, the TUC blog Touchstones has published its analysis of August 2011 claimant count figures and vacancies and their ratio for local authorities in England, Scotland, and Wales (scroll to “Download our analysis for every area”). There are 152 local authorities in England and in terms of arithmetically how many claimants there are for each vacancy Cornwall sits at 32nd (where 1st is best, the fewest claimants for each vacancy). Cornwall is thus at the 80th percentile, that is the ratio for Cornwall is as good as or better than 80 percent of England local authorities.

For Cornwall there are 3.5 claimants per vacancy. The mean average for England is 5.3 and the ratio ranges from 2.0 to 22.8 (disregarding the extremely low figures for the City of London and Isles of Scilly).

Thus Cornwall is not bottom of the table and is doing comparatively well. That will not help or comfort the 8384 current claimants in our county and I expect the figures will get worse. Of course the ratio will vary across Cornwall too.


UPDATE 20 January 2012
The total number of job placements in Cornwall under the Future Job Fund (FJF) from October 2009, when the FJF began, was 650 comprising by parliamentary constituency 160 in Camborne Redruth, 110 in North Cornwall, 140 in St Austell Newquay, 80 in St Ives, 70 in South East Cornwall, and 90 in Truro Falmouth [Parliamentary Library, DEP 2011-2026, 5 December 2012]. The last applications for FJF placements were in March 2011.

The Tory-Libdem government has abolished the Future Jobs Fund (FJF). This is wrongheaded and sadly in a while, too late to do any good, the Tory-Libdems will agree.

This scheme was about getting back into work people, especially those aged 18-24, who had been unemployed for six months. Young people in Cornwall benefited and stood to benefit more. Cornwall Council, working with partners in the private sector, successfully bid for £500 000 in autumn 2009 to create eighty three additional jobs; in this spring it successfully bid for £1.3 million for two hundred jobs for young people in Cornwall.

Thus the FJF helps young people here get back into work, another example of Labour’s positive achievements for the people of our county. The scheme isn’t perfect, the jobs are temporary, but the jobs pay at least the minimum wage, and take people away from unemployment into work and to learn new work skills. Had the scheme continued more out-of-work people in Cornwall would have got work through the FJF. Abolishing the scheme will hurt young people in Cornwall.

Do the Conservative and Libdem coalition MPs for Cornwall approve of this destructive decision of their government to abolish the FJF? Do they think this abolition helps unemployed young people in Cornwall?

The council’s media statements on its participation are here (30 July 2009) and here (17 March 2010)

Addendum 27 November 2010
There is an account of a successful FJF scheme here.


8 September 2009

Research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed that the recession is having the worst impact upon low paid and unskilled workers. Read the report here. This affects many workers in Cornwall.

The TUC shows that people in “elementary” jobs are disproportionately more likely to suffer unemployment in contrast to people in professional work. Additionally,
people from low paid and unskilled jobs are more likely to spend more than six months unemployed than people from professional jobs.

Low paid workers have little or no opportunity to save for rainy days from their wages and for them Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) is a very important income. Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, says: “Increasing JSA by as little as £10 a week would make a real difference to millions of families.”

He is right. I know these are difficult times for the national (and global) economy and some serious financial cuts are necessary. However, a civilised country must seek to protect its poorest and most vulnerable people. We cannot shield people from unemployment; we can mitigate its effects on the incomes and lives of those who have least. Eventually economic improvement and consequent more work will help them. In the immediate meantime JSA should be increased for them.

Job seekers allowance (JSA) claims by occupation, TUC September 2009. A summary is in the TUC press release, Low paid hit hardest by recession, 4 September 2009.


17 June 2009

I shall post here continuing good news for Cornwall, developments which will positively help the people of Cornwall and the local economy and everyday lives. Everyone who wants the people of Cornwall to succeed in the modern world will welcome them. This post covers the first half of 2009. Vorsprung Cornwall 1 and 2 cover 2007 and Vorsprung Cornwall 3 and 4 cover 2008.

* The claimant count figures for 14 May 2009 show a fall in Cornwall to 8847 compared to April 2009. This is the number claiming jobseekers allowance and is the usual quoted measure of unemployment (there are other figures for unemployment). The drop is welcome, especially as unemployment is rising in Britain, though perhaps in Cornwall we are now in the weeks of seasonal work. However, the May 2009 figure was twice that of May 2008, a sign of serious job losses.(17 June 2009)

* The Southwest regional development agency (SWRDA), established in 1999, has announced its budget plans for the next two years, 2009-2011, after having its money cut by the recession. Cornwall is doing very well indeed from the new SWRDA plans. About £52.2 million is available for capital projects in the county, much the largest share of any of the SWRDA areas. Of course, Cornwall also has around £415 million EU Convergence Program money available for viable projects 2007-2013.

A list of the Cornwall projects supported by the SWRDA is given here. A briefing by the SWRDA is here. (9 June 2009)

* Way back in 1997 the Labour government promised to end mixed-sex wards and facilities in hospitals. It has been very slow progress. This January the government acted decisively to settle its promise throughout the country this year; and in April the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) was granted £750 000 from the Department of Health’s privacy and dignity program for its plans to end any mixed wards and facilities in its three hospitals at Treliske, Hayle, and Penzance. For patients in Cornwall that is excellent news.

* At the urging of the government, doctors (GPs) have been extending the opening hours of their practices. This is a progressive move which makes consultation easier for people who work in the day and cannot easily get time off, and for their employers and work colleagues too. The Department of Health has released the figures for the incidence of extended hours in primary care trusts, including the Cornwall and Isle of Scilly (CIOSPCT) one: in March sixty eight of the seventy GP practices in CIOSPCT were operating extended hours, that is 97.1 percent of the practices. This is much above the England average, 73.5 percent. The details are here. (April 2009)

* Since February 2007 the Vorsprung Cornwall posts here have been crying up the positive concrete things happening in Cornwall. Now a new project, Confident Cornwall, has been set up by others, supported by the local newspapers and business groups. It is to “showcase the good news” about Cornwall. This is excellent news. There is much to celebrate in Cornwall. (March 2009)

* There are plans to turn the site of Glasney College, a medieval Christian monastery at Penryn, into a garden, thus preserving the monastic ruins which are below the surface. The monastery was demolished during the religious reforms of Henry VIII. A range of facilities, such as arts and crafts, is possible at the garden. (12 March 2009)

* Small businesses in construction Cornwall, plumbers and electricians for example, have been helped by the government’s decision to bring forward £6.889 million of spending in schools from 2010/11 to this year, 2009/10. This is part of a total of £919 million spending brought forward for schools in England to help defeat the effects of the recession.

It’s good news for Cornwall businesses and for schools, though the money will be deducted from 2010/11 school allocations. It is spending brought forward not additional spending.

The education department explains it here and there is a list of which education authorities get what here. (4 March 2009)

* St Michael’s hospital at Hayle, part of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT), is to undergo a £6 million renewal. As part of that there will be two new operating theatres for breast surgery and orthopedics and these will be the largest and most up-to-date in the RCHT. This is excellent news for the NHS in Cornwall and for patients. See here for more details. (17 January 2009). The two new operating theatres are funded by the national Department of Health through the exceptional public dividend capital scheme. (Hansard 23 March 2009 column 162W).

* Let me begin the new year with a hopeful and positive report in today’s Western Morning News. The Peninsular Medical School is looking to establish a major research institute on the environment and health at Treliske, Truro. EU funds are being sought and jobs for locals and work for local businesses will follow. (1 January 2009)

A while ago I doubted the Tory Party conversion to social democracy.

Then there was a story in the Sunday Mirror last October claiming that “David Cameron would allow minimum wage to die out” (Sunday Mirror 5 October 2008).

Now the other day in the House of Commons a group of eleven Conservative MPs introduced a bill, which won’t get far, to make the mandatory national minimum wage voluntary: adult workers would be able to freely choose to work for less than its current £5.73 an hour (Hansard 10 February 2009 columns 1258-1260: the Employment Opportunities bill). The philosophy behind this was “freedom, flexibility, and opportunity” but I think in practice it will be about working for peanuts.

The argument seems to be that voluntarising the minimum wage would help struggling small firms by enabling them reduce their wage bill and thus keep jobs that otherwise might have to go or even create new jobs and thus help people presently out of work into work by letting them take jobs which firms could afford if they pay less than £5.73 an hour. It is a plausible argument but basically I think this is a reformulation of the original Tory argument that the minimum wage destroys jobs at the bottom and the way to save them is to pay poverty wages. I believe if working for less than the minimum wage is made permissible, it will encourage a rush to the bottom in pay and more and more workers will be asked to choose, a job on inadequate pay or no job? Working for less than the minimum wage will cease to be a voluntary choice for vast numbers in the low-paid jobs. Many wages in Cornwall would be among those reduced to peanuts.

This is not a pay cut in jobs with reasonable pay which I can see in present dire circumstances might be sensible in some firms; it is a pay cut at the very bottom.

Additionally, a cut in low wages will increase the call upon top-up tax credits thus shifting costs from employer to taxpayers generally – assuming the Tories would keep tax credits.

It is instructive to note the position here before the introduction of the minimum wage. Speaking in the House of Commons second reading debate in 1997 on the bill to introduce the minimum wage, Candy Atherton, then an MP for Cornwall, said that in Penryn, Cornwall jobcentre she had seen jobs advertised for care workers at £2.20 an hour; kitchen porters at £2 an hour; and a skilled car mechanic at £1.80 an hour to work “40 hours, weekends and nights” (Hansard 16 December 1997 columns 211-212). She explicitly challenged the idea that low pay brings jobs.

In fact very few jobs have been lost because of the minimum wage which is at a very modest level and is increased annually generally with judiciousness but over time above general price and pay increases. The national minimum wage has increased the real wages of the low paid without damaging employment. For both these points see this study, On the impact of the British national minimum wage on pay and employment, December 2006, by David Metcalf.

Britain’s minimum wage: what impact on pay and jobs is a summary.

The Conservatives voted against the minimum wage when it was introduced by the Labour government. The October story and the Tory sally on 10 February raise the serious question of whether a Conservative government would abolish the mandatory minimum wage or voluntarise it or let it wither and die. The Tory leadership should be open with us about this and the Tory parliamentary candidates in Cornwall should say out loud where they stand.

I think we should keep the mandatory minimum wage and keep on increasing it in normal economic circumstances. If we reach a point where jobs disappear in numbers, we should deal with that scenario then. In the meantime we should take the low paid out of tax. People on the minimum wage pay tax which effectively reduces the wage rate by around £1 an hour. I would like to see the low paid taken out of tax altogether and it is extremely disappointing that after twelve years of a Labour government, with many fat years and millions paid in bonuses to the well paid, working people start paying tax when they reach pay of £116 a week, with no ten percent rate now.

These are not normal economic circumstances. The recession and rising unemployment mean that whether the minimum wage should be frozen at its present level or raised is a difficult question – and wholly separate from the Tory bill. The Low Paid Commission will report in May and its arguments will be engaging.

Look for a moment at the measure of the downturn in Cornwall and the fast disappearance of jobs, the circumstances in which some Tories want to hobble the minimum wage. In January 2009 there were 8989 unemployed people in Cornwall – that is, people claiming job seeker allowance (JSA), the standard measure which probably underestimates unemployment (Table 16 at Claimant count by unitary and local authority). That is a very substantial rise over 2007/08 (see Table 12).

The JSA is not generous. A single person, over twenty five and with no dependent children, gets £60.50 a week on JSA. Rent and mortgage payments are additional but £60.50 is pitifully inadequate for a decent life.

All right, in normal circumstances most people are on JSA for only a few months until they find a job. But these are not normal economic circumstances, are they?

This is the pro-Cornish agenda, recognising the people of Cornwall and their needs. The minimum wage should remain mandatory and be increased if feasible in these circumstances; the Tories are wrong. Unemployment benefits should be increased now: the low level of the JSA which in boom circumstances might have been defended as a temporary payment and a spur to work, an argument I am unhappy with anyway, is not valid now. People will be unemployed for longer than in the recent past and debts and deprivation will pile up and their ownership of their houses is imperilled.

Meanwhile Cornish nationalism studies its navel.

The national minimum wage began in 1999 at £3.60 an hour. About 1.2 million workers were covered by it. There are now about 2 million workers covered by it.

The TUC estimates that 1.5 million workers are currently paid below the minimum wage though not all these will be instances of noncompliance with the law.

The second reading of the minimum wage bill was on 16 December 1997, the third reading on 9 March 1998. Conservatives voted against the bill on both occasions.

The February 2009 JSA claimant figure for Cornwall is 10 220 (added 19 March 2009).

This post, Shameful failure, also discusses inter alia the minimum wage.

Chope’s Employment Opportunities bill was denied a second reading on 16 June 2009 (Hansard column 1106) and is down for second reading on 16 October 2009, along with a host of other bills. Early day motion (EDM) 1461 of 11 May 2009 opposed the bill.


11 December 2008

I shall post here continuing good news for Cornwall, developments which will positively help the people of Cornwall and the local economy and everyday lives. Everyone who wants the people of Cornwall to succeed in the modern world will welcome them. This post covers the second half of 2008 to December. Vorsprung Cornwall 1 and 2 cover 2007 and Vorsprung Cornwall 3 covers January-June 2008.

* The West Briton reports that Pool, between Camborne and Redruth, is to see a major new development. £40 million will be spent to create a new campus for Cornwall College and £12 million to create a business innovation centre. Eventually and hopefully about two thousand new office jobs will be created at Pool. This is very good news indeed for education and the economy in Cornwall. (11 December 2008)

* A parliamentary answer (Hansard 17 November 2008 column 132W) shows that the number of people sleeping rough in Cornwall has fallen from thirty six in 1998 to zero in 2008. This is progress, especially in Penwith which accounted for half the county’s rough sleepers in 1998. Of course, this does not reveal whether the rough sleepers have moved into accommodation or have simply moved on. (18 November 2008)

* Two lifeguards in Cornwall have been awarded the RNLI silver medal for their courageous rescue of a holiday maker from treacherous seas at Trebarwith in June. After bringing him from the sea, they resuscitated him and kept him alive until the helicopter arrived to take him to hospital. You can read the RNLI account here. They are heroes. (14 November 2008)

* Excellent news for people in Cornwall seeking work. £27 million is available for new projects to help people improve their present skills or develop new skills and thus increase their chances of finding work. The money is from the European Social Fund (ESF) and has just been announced by the UK government. It will support three projects in each of the three areas of Merseryside, South Yorkshire, and Cornwall. Project applicants will have to put up 25 percent match funding in Cornwall but 50 percent in the other two areas.

This is additional to the £100 million from the ESF and British government for improving work skills announced on 15 October 2008 to help people facing redundancy. (6 November 2008)

* The Healthcare Commission has produced an assessment of the urgent and emergency services in areas* covered by primary care trusts in England. There are numerous ratings for numerous aspects of services such as out-of-hours GP services, A and E departments, and ambulance services. Details of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly area are here. The good news is that the Cornwall area’s overall score is in the top one third of results, the “best performing”. There is also summary file of all the areas’ ratings. (26 September 2008) *The Commission defines the areas as “within 152 localities set by the boundaries of the primary care trusts.”

* A project which has helped a thousand unemployed people in south Kerrier is expanding its catchment area westwards. The project, funded by the government and the EU, offers guidance and also helps job seekers to overcome difficulties with the costs of travel, childcare, and clothes, for example. An excellent, successful project. You can read a report on it here . (25 September 2008)

* Part of the Dobwalls bypass is now opened and it is expected that the new road will be fully open by November. The bypass is costing £42 million and will take traffic away from Dobwalls village on the A38, the Cornwall-Plymouth road. It began in late 2006 and will end congestion in Dobwalls making life there pleasanter and speeding the traffic

* Business Cornwall reports that RAM Gasket Solutions, a Redruth firm employing fourteen people, has won investment grants to expand. Three new jobs will be created. This is good news for the Cornwall economy, the firm, and its workers. Celebrate this success.

* Last March it was announced that the English open golf tournament was coming to St Mellion golf club from 2009 to at least 2013. Now the exact dates for 2009 have been announced . This tournament will attract top golfers and thousands of spectators to St Mellion, near Saltash, and will create scores of new golf-related jobs. The boost to the local economy should be impressive.


25 June 2008

I shall post here continuing good news for Cornwall, developments which will positively help the people of Cornwall and the local economy and everyday lives. Everyone who wants the people of Cornwall to succeed in the modern world will welcome them. This post covers 2008 from January to June 2008. Vorsprung Cornwall 1 and 2 cover 2007.

* For several months people have been fund raising for a proposed children’s hospice in Cornwall: the nearest one at present is in north Devon. Now Howard and Shirley Rosevear have given land near St Austell as a site for the hospice. This will be for children from Cornwall and Plymouth.

You can read this heart-warming story here in the Western Morning News for 25 June. There are good people in Cornwall.

* June 2008. The government is contributing £34 million as part of transport improvements for the regeneration of the Redruth-Pool-Camborne area. In all the regeneration project is intended to produce 2300 new jobs and six hundred homes.
(Source: egov monitor Rosie Winterton announces £34 million transport improvements for Cornish regeneration area)

* May 2008. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published data for individual institutions about MRSA and C difficile deaths. The data comes with caveats. For the period 2002-06 the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust performed creditably in this difficult sphere: better than average for the listed institutions for C difficile and average for MRSA.

* 13 April 2008. There’s an upbeat article in the Observer describing Penzance as now the premier art place in Cornwall and a place to visit and enjoy. Perhaps Penzance is beginning to see a cultural and economic resurgence and outshine St Ives. (Source: Observer 13 April 2008 Penzance turns regeneration into a fine art)

* April. The county record office at Truro has begun to put its parish tithe maps and their accompanying apportionment/survey books onto compact disks. This will save the original printed maps from wear and tear, will make them available in a more user-friendly format than microfiche, and make the survey books more easily searched. Additionally, the record office is selling the disks (map and survey book) for £20. This is excellent news for everyone interested in local and family history in Cornwall.

* In Cornwall in 2007/08 £3.362 million was spent on warm front measures for vulnerable households. The details are here , look for DEP 2008-0881.xls for 17 March 2008.

* March 2008. Caradon district council is receiving £5.95 million for affordable housing from the first round of the national affordable housing program 2008/09. This will build ninety six houses in the district and create a care village for the elderly out of the the Passmore Edwards hospital in Liskeard. This is capital news and a significant help to people there in need of affordable housing. Rejoice. Read more here . (NOTE. The original article is no longer available online but the cached version is still available: type “caradon £6m affordable housing” into google and open the cached version.)

* There has been a significant improvement in waiting times for NHS hospital patients in Cornwall. The figures are subject to caveats and fluctuations but the waiting time for all specialties for patients still waiting for hospital admission in the period ending March 2007 in Cornwall and Isle of Scilly primary care trust (CIOSPCT) was 7 weeks; March 1997 in the corresponding Cornwall and Isles of Scilly health authority (CIOSHA) it was 12.9 weeks.

Examples of reductions in the specialties are cardiology with 4.6 weeks at March 2007 and with 14.6 weeks at March 1997; gynecology 7.2 weeks and 13 weeks; and ophthalmology 7.2 and 17.7 weeks.

With all the caveats these are impressive reductions.

You can read the details and the data explanations and caveats in Hansard 27 February 2008, columns 1754W-1756W.

* The figures for breast and cervical cancer screening show that in the area of the present Cornwall and Isles of Scilly primary care trust the screening program is being well used and is reaching a high proportion of women. We are slightly higher in percentage reach than the average for England in cervical screening. In breast screening the proportion of eligible women who have attended screening here was higher than the England average in the last given year, 2005-2006, a very large improvement over two years previously when Cornwall was way below the England average. The lives of women in Cornwall are being saved through timely screening. (Hansard 31 January 2008, columns 596W-602W and 618W-624W.)

* 30 January 2008. The EU investment program, called by the unromantic name of the Convergence program, now begins in Cornwall and will make available about £300 million over the years 2008-2013, plus £140 million from the British government.This is in effect a ‘continuation’ of the 2000-2007 Objective One program which made about £350 million available to Cornwall.

* 25 January 2008. The Healthcare Commission has published the results of its assessment of 148 maternity units. The assessment stressed women’s reported experiences. The maternity unit at Treliske Hospital, Truro (Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust) has been assessed as among the “Best performing,” a category in which 26 percent of the units fall. In fact it is seventh best of the units. That is an excellent performance.

The unit at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which serves some women in east Cornwall, is in the “Least well performing” category. That is unacceptable but the assessment has been influenced by incomplete information from the trust.

The complete details are here.

* 8 January 2008. Cornwall county council is considering, through consultants, the development of a park-and-ride for seven hundred cars at St Erth railway station. This, along with longer trains, would be to improve the service for people on the St Ives branch line, which is much used in summer, and to reduce congestion in St Ives.

Such a development has long been advocated by locals.

Read the details at Transport briefing here.