What about Cornwall?

After my weekend post about the North-South divide, I had a few notes from aggrieved Cornish people, pointing out that their home is as far south as you can get in the UK and yet is one of its poorest parts. So much so that it is one of the few areas of the UK to qualify for EU aid.

This is a pretty poor show on my part, given my family connections with Cornwall. That Cornwall is as deprived as parts of the north is a point I have often made myself. I was going to do an addendum to Saturday’s post but, the more I looked at it, the more I felt the subject deserved a blog of its own.

This interactive ONS map of Gross Value Added is a good place to start. (GVA is a measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 18.04.53

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Here, Cornwall, with its light shading, is looking more like Wales and northern England than the rest of the south.

GVA doesn’t tell the whole story though. Let’s look at pay levels.


Cornwall is clearly a low pay area, lower even than many parts of the north.

So does Cornwall count as part of the affluent south at all?

Perhaps not but let’s dig a bit deeper and look at wealth rather than income. The ONS Wealth and Assets Survey hasn’t broken down its figures by county (or if it has, I couldn’t find them) but the regional picture is pretty much as you’d expect.

Percentage of Households with Total Wealth Greater than £967,000 by Region, Great Britain, 2008/10 


Pretty much in line with the North-South divide.

Back to the ONS interactive maps to look at disposable household income.

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 18.49.47Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 18.50.05

Cornwall looking not quite as affluent as the rest of the south but no worse than parts of the midlands and better than much of the industrial north.

Here my hypothesis then. Cornwall (in common with some parts of rural England) is income poor but wealth rich. Relative to the rest of the country, not a lot of wealth is created or income earned in Cornwall but this is offset by there being quite a lot of accumulated wealth in the area. Second homers, wealthy early retirees and weekday commuters bring their wealth in from elsewhere. A few years ago, Cornwall was described in the Independent as a land of haves and have nots, which would be consistent with the data I’ve looked at here and with some of what I’ve seen from going down there to visit family over the years.

I’d be interested to hear from someone who knows more about this though. Does Cornwall belong with the north on the poor side of the economic divide or the south on the rich one? Is its economic position more complex than that? Is it, as I have suggested, wealth rich and income poor? Or is something else going on? Answers in the usual place please.

Meanwhile, for a more humorous take, see this.

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3 Responses to What about Cornwall?

  1. Pingback: What about Cornwall? - Rick - Member Blogs - HR Blogs - HR Space from Personnel Today and Xpert HR

  2. The income poor / wealth rich characteristic suggests that Cornwall suffers, in mild form, from the resource curse. Once it was tin and china-clay, now it is all those sandy beaches.

  3. Dipper says:

    I think it is more about being connected to the corporate/finance/metropolitan boom that has taken place. Brighton is connected, Hastings isn’t. Poole is connected, Weymouth isn’t. Leeds is connected, Bradford isn’t. etc.

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