Cornwall Needs A Pay Rise – Leah Browning on "The Low Pay Capital of UK"

The Browning Column

Comment & Opinion from Leah Browning

Average UK Salary – £27,195 

Average Cornish Salary –  £17,873

Cornwall Trade Union Council are soon to be co-hosting a necessary and overdue demonstration to ‘Give Cornwall a pay rise’.

In the county’s capital, a march of passion will follow guest speakers on Lemon Quay on the 21st October (12.30pm) as part of the TUC national campaign.

Speakers will include Frances O’Grady TUC general secretary.

Link to TUC event page

“Rising prices and stagnant pay are a toxic combination for working people.This is the fourth month in a row where wages have fallen behind the cost of living. Ministers are sitting on their hands as another living standards crisis unfolds. It’s time to boost wages by scrapping the pay restrictions in the public sector, investing in infrastructure and increase the minimum wage”

   Frances O’Grady – TUC General Secretary

Zoe Fox of Unite Communities who is helping organise the event stated a pay rise is needed ‘across the board’ but that other issues also needed to be addressed in the county.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) record the National average weekly wage is £439, Cornwall’s average weekly wage is £344 that’s a weekly difference of £95.

The average annual salary in Cornwall is £17,873 only 77.4% of the national average, trailing a massive 22.6% behind the rest of the UK.

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Speaking with the Labour Leader of Cornwall Council, Tim Dwelly about low pay he said “I feel the most important change was the Labour introduction of the minimum wage, that better pay would lose jobs was absolute nonsense.”

Tim went on to say that he and Labour had “campaigned hard” for the real living wage at Cornwall Council and were now pursuing it for it’s contractors like Cormac.

He told me “The Labour group’s number one priority is decent pay in all sectors, that is absolutely critical”.

Tim says he agreed with Kim Conchie, Chief Executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce that the private sector also need to offer up the real living wage to employees in the county.

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The Real Living Wage is not to be confused with the National Living Wage, introduced by the Conservative government in 2016. The real living wage has been independently calculated annually by the Living Wage Foundation based on the needs of employees and their families.

“The causes of poverty are complex and in order to improve lives there should be a package of solutions across policy areas. The living wage can be part of the solution”

Living Wage Foundation


Whilst having differing views on whether Cornwall’s economic dependency on the tourist industry was in part to blame, Zoe Fox saying “Absolutely” and Tim Dwelly saying it was “not directly linked”, both cited the issues that  an inevitable affect on Cornwall’s workforce and their families, namely zero hour contracts, insecure and seasonal employment plus employers opting to employ younger employees –  thus exploiting the ability to pay them considerably less.

Zoe also said second home ownership was causing issues to people living in Cornwall.

We also spoke to Don from CPR Foodbank about the low income working families in West Cornwall, he told Cornishstuff

“In-work clients are increasingly coming to our foodbanks.

 Zero hour contacts are causing so much distress to ordinary living. I have a client living in his car on a Zero Hours Contract, no hope of saving money for a deposit on accommodation. How is anyone supposed to budget when working hours are few and far between? I find it unbelievable that so many working people only just survive due to low pay. Many below the national minimum., how do employers get away with that? We provide on average 10,000 meals a month from our foodbank’s in the CPR area.

It is wicked than many are trying hard to live on such low incomes.”

Clearly the rhetoric adopted by out of touch politicians that poverty is solved by ‘getting a job’ is simply no longer true. 

As the nation faces further growing inequality, low income families continue to be disproportionately affected by the Conservative government’s policy choice of austerity. 

Cornwall must unite to demand pay parity with the rest of the UK! Taint right, taint fair, taint proper!

How does your workplace measure up?