Just over a decade later in January 2013, after three grinding years of failing to find a purchaser for our Reydon converted barn, we completed our sale and Louise and I arrived at last as residents in Cornwall. Hopefully we will spend the rest of our lives here. It is a different kind of experience living and working in Cornwall as a writer and a politically engaged person from simply being here as a visitor. When I think back to the holidays we spent in the region of the Fowey estuary and the delights of the Hall Walk, or in Polperro, or in Tintagel, or here in St Ives, so many extraordinary and breath-taking vistas come to mind. Cornwall has such stunning landscapes and sea views. As a local, it takes discipline to break from the work routines to savour fully such delights. But they remain there for the taking.
|St Michael's Mount, off-shore from Marazion - rising from the waters of the bay|
Yet beneath the tourist surface, there is another reality and that is the focus for this post.
First, the national context:
Earlier this year, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JFR) released their report on poverty in the UK in 2018. 14.3 million people in Britain were living in poverty. 8 million of these people (56%) are living in a family with at least one working adult. 4.1 million (29%) are children and 1.9 million (13%) are
pensioners. Child poverty has been rising since 2011-12 and the number of children in poverty has increased by half a million in the last five years. The JFR reported that in-work poverty is rising faster than the rise in employment. What kind of success is it when the fall in the number of those unemployed means that increasing numbers of people in poverty are in families where at least one person has a job?
|Poverty in the UK|
And in Cornwall?
The Cornish economy is reliant on seasonal tourism, resulting in more part-time and seasonal work being available than the national average. Low wages and underemployment makes Cornwall one of the UK's poorest counties. Seventeen of Cornwall's neighbourhoods are amongst the most deprived in England - within the poorest 10%. That's an increase of 5 neighbourhoods in the last five years. Cornwall ranks 2nd of 6 listed areas identified as being among the poorest in northern Europe.
What does this mean for a significant number of people living in Cornwall?
- Cornwall's annual economic output in 2014 was around £9.5 billion. Personal debt in Cornwall is estimated at £14 billion.
- The Cornish average weekly household income is £643. The UK average is £766.
- In Cornwall, there are over 34,000 households facing 'fuel poverty', meaning that they need to spend more than 10% of their income on heating their home to an adequate standard of warmth.
- Nearly 40,000 (17%) of households in Cornwall are without their own transport in a county where 82% of those surveyed consider there is insufficient public transportation for commuting and access to services.
- Nearly a fifth of Cornish children are living in poverty.
- Just over a fifth of adult people in Cornwall have no formal qualifications.
|Foodbank - a slice of Cornish life|
|A reminder that the heir to the UK throne has land in Cornwall and a wife with a Cornish title - another slice of Cornish life|
|Demonstration in Penzance - July 2016 - in support of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn|
- For 'The cost of Tory misgovernment since 2010 - press here.
- For 'Optimism over Despair' - press here
- For 'What is Jeremy Corbyn thinking' - press here.