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!!)


  • anonymouse

    Andrew – you dont do anyone any favours by comparing what people who are on benefits get from the government with what wage is needed for an adequate standard of living. If those who are short gave up sky TV, fags and beer then they (or at least a very large proportion) would be a lot better off. There are jobs out there (agreed not enough) – otherwise there wouldn’t be an influx of eastern Europeans – its just a lot of people think cutting cabbage etc is beneath them.

    When we get away from the “I am entitled to a house and spending money” mentality a lot of the problems will go away and those that are truly in need can receive adequate funding.

  • Booger

    Why are you complaining, of all people? Did you and your fellow councillors not just give yourselves a 20% pay rise? It was all over the local newspapers was it not? It’s a shame we can’t all afford to do this.

  • Andrew Wallis

    Hello Anoymouse,

    I have not compared, but given examples of different situations, which include those in and out of work. As for your comment on a large proportion of benefit claimants spend it on beer, fags and sky. I suggest we leave those comments to Daily Mail stories and readers. Furthermore, statistics are showing a large number of Eastern Europeans are in fact returning to their home countries due to the fact there is limit work. And just to say, many low paid workers claim some sort of benefit, too.

  • Andrew Wallis


    If you read the post, I was not complaining, merely highlighting the cost of living in Cornwall. Furthermore, no one has given themselves a pay-rise, as this will only come into affect, after the election in May. And no one is guaranteed to be re-elected. I can assure you, no one likes having to vote for or not a pay-rise, but until the Law is changed, this function still has to rest with Councillors.

  • I don’t think it’s fair the tax payer should fund fags booze and gambling and am also interested to hear from those who think it is.

  • worried worker

    Just to counteract Booger; I support members getting paid
    more. I don’t get the crab mentality of “I’m not earning much so NO
    ONE should earn much”. I want my members to be ordinary people, not
    rich toffs who can afford not to work.

  • Fags booze and gambling Jon? You missed out flash cars, plasma TVs, Sky and 3 holidays a year to Spain. It’s amazing what you can get for £76 a week these days. :0)

  • I think we are ordinary people, I didn’t think it had become a class thing.

  • I think it’s fair to say that we all know of people who are/have abused one system or another BUT for every one of them there are a whole lot of other people (working or wishing they could) who are trying their darnedest to get by on less disposable income whilst the government tries to disguise their attack on the most vulnerable by fanning the flames of prejudice eg making it sound like everyone on benefit is a lying scrounger. Well, they’re not and none of us know what curved balls live may throw at us and put us in a crisis situation.
    No one could reasonably say that our welfare system doesn’t need a revamp because it’s just become a bolt-on system with little thought given to how one thing effects another, but why is it that those least able to champion themselves are those targeted first? This morning I heard a government minister saying that those in financial difficulties should seek advice at once. That’s a minister from the same government whose policies have directly resulted in many CAB offices closing or restricting hours then!!!!
    They have no conception of what ‘real life’ is like for so many – locked in their ivory towers spending OUR money on/in areas that cannot be justified whilst the basics of life are denied to so many (and no I don’t consider Sky TV as a basic, but also recognise that for some people with challenges to mobility/health it can be a life line and/or the only entertainment they get).

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