For the past three months Marlborough News Online has been reporting the worsening unemployment figures for the Devizes constituency. Now the GMB union has used official earnings figures to show how those in full time work across the whole of Wiltshire have been hit by falling living standards since April 2007.
The GMB’s analysis used earnings and inflation figures from before the banking crisis and the recession, into the first year of coalition government’s cuts programme right up to September 2011. This showed that in Wiltshire the real value of earnings has fallen over the period by 14.3 per cent.
The equivalent figure for the whole of the south west area was a drop of eight per cent. And across The United Kingdom the fall was 5.9 per cent.
These percentages are reached by measuring the increase (or in some cases, the decrease) in each area’s mean gross annual pay levels between April 2007 and September 2011 and then seeing how far that increase was eroded by inflation.
In 2007 Wiltshire had the second highest mean gross annual pay level of the fifteen areas in the south west – £30,789. By 2011 Wiltshire was sixth in the list with £31,102.
The difficulties in recent years experienced by workers at the Honda plant in Swindon are not to blame for Wiltshire’s poor figures. Swindon was measured separately and showed a drop in the real value of earnings of just 1.1 per cent.
In two areas of the south west the GMB’s research showed up unusually stark results: in Cornwall the mean gross annual full time pay rose from £23,533 to £28,831 and saw a drop in real value of 8.8 per cent.
The lowest mean gross annual full time pay in the survey’s fifteen areas in the south west was Torbay: £21,969 in 2007, but up to £25,562 in 2011. This gave Torbay the only rise in the real value of earnings over the period – a rise of 1.1 per cent.
The GMB’s Regional Secretary for the south west, Richard Ascough, said the government’s strategy for an economic revival was “in tatters”: “Two thirds of the economy is consumer driven and [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Osborne must be the only person who does not get it. Squeezing wages, pay freezes and cutting jobs will not restart the economy.”
“Using the International Monetary Fund measures, his cuts will reduce real private consumption by 4 per cent and GDP by 3.4 per cent over the next few years.”
Wiltshire was fifteenth in the GMB’s table of the United Kingdom’s worst affected areas. Hardest hit of all were the full time workers in Fulham and Hammersmith – the real value of their ages has dropped by a staggering 28.6 per cent.
Next hardest hit was another rural county, Herefordshire. There the drop in the value of full time earnings was 22.7 per cent. Among the fifteen worst hit areas across the nation, twelve showed decreases in mean annual pay between 2007 and 2011 – even before inflation had taken its toll on the value of that pay.
Responding to these new figures, Claire Perry, MP for the Devizes constituency, told Marlborough News Online: “I don’t recognise these figures at all and they totally fail to take into account the historically low interest rates the government’s economic policies have delivered that benefit every mortgage holder in Wiltshire, as well as the benefit of the council tax freeze, and the relief on fuel duty that benefited everyone filling up their cars.”
“Everyone knows we have to deal with the debts of the last government and get the economy growing again by helping businesses. It’s time the unions dragged themselves out of the past and dealt with the realities of today.”
[NOTE: the published (Office for National Statistics) figures for earnings ran from April 2007 to April 2011 and the GMB analysts uprated those earnings figures to take account of wage rises to September 2011.]