Wednesday 6 July 2022

The cost of living crisis, solidarity and the Stadium

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian newspaper covers three subjects. It is as follows:

1. The latest report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation makes for very hard reading. Titled “Not heating, eating or meeting bills: managing a cost of living crisis on a low income,” the new research demonstrates the “precarious position of the worst-off 40% of households.”

The Foundation considers that the packages of support put in place by the UK Government do “not go far enough to support those who came into this crisis in a tough financial position.” It has stated that, for many families, the payments “will barely touch the sides, let alone help prepare for the winter that is coming.”

The findings show that “some seven million low-income households” have been “going without at least one essential (such as a warm home, enough food, appropriate clothing or basic toiletries)” while over two million families were “neither eating properly nor heating their homes adequately.” The seriousness of the cost of living crisis is further shown by the statistic that 4.6 million households are “in arrears with at least one bill, with the average amount owed around £1,600.” Significantly, the report adds that almost all families on means tested benefits are having “repayments for certain types of debt taken directly from benefits” and 93% of these are going without “at least one essential.”

The shocking evidence in the JRF report sends a clear message to central government that their priority should be the less-well-off in UK society.

2. Interestingly, the Economics Editor of the Guardian, Larry Elliot, recently wrote how “two years ago Rishi Sunak stood outside 11 Downing Street” flanked by the TUC and the CBI. He noted that the “photo op was meant to demonstrate a new spirit of tripartite solidarity” during the pandemic. Sadly, I share Elliot’s view that the “spirit of consensus has departed” as shown by the UK Government’s approach to the industrial dispute with rail workers, which has been revert to “union bashing” – rather than seeking to reach out at this time of crisis.

3. As a Cornwall Councillor, I would like to disassociate myself from the decision of the Conservative administration to stop seeking funding for the Stadium for Cornwall. I don’t think the excuses, about business cases or the nature of “Levelling Up” funding, stand up to scrutiny. I was a candidate in the 2015 General Election and I recall the day when the Tories announced they would fund the Stadium. There were no caveats or conditions, just a straight-forward pledge to voters. By not delivering on that promise, it will forever be remembered as a cynical ploy to harvest votes, and nothing more.

Tuesday 5 July 2022


One of my recent columns in the Cornish Guardian addressed the inequality at the heart of the housing market. The article was as follows:

Ten years ago in the Cornish Guardian, I wrote about how figures released by the Office of National Statistics showed Cornwall to be the “second home capital” of the United Kingdom, and that the National Housing Federation had warned “second homes” were increasingly pricing local people out of their communities with the countryside becoming a “place for the well-off to enjoy at weekends."

This was also at a time when a prominent London author and journalist had written a piece about how he had "agonised" about buying a “second home,” stating he initially feared he would be seen as an absentee "invader." But somehow, he came to the conclusion that: "However unfair it is that some people can afford holiday homes while young locals find it impossible to get started on the property ladder, Cornwall would die without second homes."

I described this as “twaddle” and quoted a local journalist who wrote: “The last thing any struggling community needs is to be patronised and treated like a basket case by those who have, by their greed, been the architects of many of its ills. By purchasing a property in a village, holidaying there a couple of times a year, and thereby transforming that village into a playground of the rich, these leeches suck the heart out of communities.”

It was my view that the housing market was in crisis and “totally out of control.” One decade on, the situation is even worse, not least because of the inaction of the UK Government.

While there are a range of factors making the present housing crisis so bad, there are an increasing number of metropolitan commentators, once again, trying to rubbish concerns about second homes – particularly to the west of the Tamar.

One recent article in the Daily Telegraph was nonsensically titled: “Why Cornwall can’t survive without second home owners.” The piece was extremely insensitive. It promoted the argument that second homes are good for the economy. It described concerns about the impact of the multiple-property-owning households as “attacks,” it was critical of the proposed registration of “rented holiday homes” and, unbelievably, described the need for lifeboat volunteers “to live within five minutes of the station for a shout” as a “niche local issue.”

A separate piece in the same newspaper misrepresented the comments of the airbnb boss Brian Chesky to generate a deliberately inflammatory headline that said: “Cornwall risks becoming 'xenophobic' without outsiders.”

Such crass comments should not deter campaigners for housing justice, and we should be ever more determined to build a new political system that prioritises need over wealth and privilege.