The Cost of Living in Cornwall

Now the Christmas and New Year Festivities are over, and many of us are wondering if those jeans/trousers have shrunk in the wash, it is time to get back to blogging and my first post of 2013 is on the cost of living in Cornwall.

I am sorry if this is a depressing blog to start the new year, but with the forthcoming implementation of many aspects of the Governments Universal Credit and Cornwall Council’s Cabinet recommending everyone pays some sort of Council Tax, I though pay and the cost of living was a poignant way to start.

I often hear from friends who live outside of Cornwall on how lovely it must be, and it must be great to live there. I reply it is, but it is not all picture postcard scenes. Cornwall is also not unique with the issues of low pay, high house prices,  but what is the real cost of living in Cornwall?

Lets start with what is the estimated living wage which is needed to provide an adequate standard of living. It is £7.45 per hour. In Cornwall around 20% of the working age population earn less than the living wage.  However, it is easy just to say it is this amount, but how do you achieve it? Just paying start more will result in prices going up, which then could lead to less being affordable. It is not just the pay the employer gives to the employee, but the employers contributions like NI. It all adds up.

Extensive research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has come up with the levels of incomes for different types of households to have an acceptable of living. These figures surprised me. For example:

  • A single person needs to spend £193 (excluding rent) a week to reach a minimum standard of living – you would need to earn £16,400 a year in order to be left with £193 a week after paying a basic rent, tax and national insurance
  • For someone out of work, benefits provide £85 a week (including Council Tax Benefit, £108 short of what they need. This will get worse with the Government and Cornwall Council changes to the benefit system.
  • A couple with two children aged 3 and 7 needs to spend £455 (excluding rent and childcare) a week to reach a minimum standard of living. If one parent works, they will need to earn £34,900 a year in order to be left with £455 a week. If both parents work full-time, they will each need to earn £18,400. Lastly, if no parent works the family will get £281 a week (including Council Tax Benefit), leaving them £174 short of what they need.

For other family groups (per week):

Single Pensioner –  £159; Pensioner couple – £231; lone parent Plus 1 child –  £276; lone parent plus 2 children – £362; couple plus 2 children –  £455; couple plus 1 child – £374 and couple – £302

So if households do not reach this level, then what? This leads to other issues like the following data.

A high proportion of households in Cornwall are in fuel poverty.  The total number of fuel poor households in Cornwall in 2010 was estimated to be 44,700. That is one in five households. I reckon that figure is likely to be higher now. Fuel poverty is made worse, not just because of low wages, but also because of the lack of mainline gas (97,530 households – 43%) and a high number of hard to heat housing (35% of households are solid wall properties). Even Energy costs vary regionally, and again Cornwall’s and are amongst the highest in the South West.

Housing plays a big part in the cost of living in Cornwall, too. It is of no surprise that the average house price in Cornwall is higher than the national average. This is £183,179, compared to the national average of £162,561 (using sept 2012 figures). This suggests that on average a house in Cornwall costs almost 9 times annual earnings. Private rent is on the high side too, and then add in the short supply of this in many locations pushes up prices even higher. Though it is not all bad news, as the average local authority rent and social housing in Cornwall is the lower than the average. There is just a lack of that type available.

Transport especially the public type is poor in Cornwall resulting in people are more reliant on cars for journeys to work, school and accessing services such as healthcare, as well as for social uses. In fact 80% of people own a car in Cornwall, compared to 73% nationally. And with the price of fuel lately, this is an added pressure on the household budget. Car owners in rural areas pay more for their fuel (1.9 pence per litre or around 1.4 per cent more). For a typical family car (with a fuel tank of 15 gallons/68 litres), this equated to paying an average of £1.27 more to fill the fuel tank. That might not seem a lot, but add that up over a year, and it soon mounts up.

So yes Cornwall is a lovely place to live, but it also has this underbelly, which will only get worse if the cost of living gets more expensive. Then add in the cuts to funding which the Government is carrying out and things could get a lot bleaker

 

Data used is from Cornwall Council Community Intelligence Teams report: Cost of Living December 2012 (which is great!!)

Cornwall and Struggling with Bills

A day has passed since I stepped up and admitted my mistake. As you can imagine my phone never stopped ringing all day. Many calls were from various forms of media, but many too were from colleagues and residents. It was also heartening to receive support messages via email, text and twitter.

There were a few who are not happy with what I did and no doubt there are others who remain quiet who are not too happy with me either. I can understand that, and if truth be told respect that. I know I have some ways to make amends to for my actions two years ago. Hopefully I will be able to do that by continuing to work hard for my area.

There is an old saying of “there go by the grace of God” as anyone could find themselves in the same position as I did. I hope not, but if the figures for the last three years indicated many have, and are finding themselves in similar positions as I did.

Last year over 50,000 council tax reminders were sent out to households in Cornwall. With around 255,966 council tax accounts in Cornwall this means near 20% of households got some type of council tax reminder last year.

As for liability orders this figure is even more shocking as shown in the figures for the following Council Tax periods.

1/4/09 – 31/3/10: 14,057 orders issued
1/4/10 – 31/3/11: 16,710 orders issued
1/4/11 to date (four months): 7129 orders issued.

If this years trend continues then by the 31/3/12 there could be 21,387 orders issued. This means just over 8% of households who could face liability orders in Cornwall.

A question is why are so many people being or have been issued with a liability order? No doubt many will come to their own conclusions, but with the cuts and the cost of living rises many people are having to make choices to what bill they pay at any certain times.

Tough times are indeed here.