Saturday, 15 January 2011

A Snapshot of Wrecsam County Borough.

Rathan than use Department of Work Pensions data like Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support and other similar welfare benefits to paint a picture of Wrecsam County Borough's demography I decided to look at households and a snaphshot of council tax payments throughout the County Borough. Households that receive benefits or whose household income is low will be entitled to either full or partial Council Tax; it is therefore a good guide to identifying those households that are living in poverty.

As at this week there are 58,420 'chargeable dwellings' in Wrecsam County Borough Council and of those 1,457 (2.5%) dwellings are exempt from paying council tax for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons why homes are exempt is that they are empty and unfurnished and there are 522 of those. This statistic in particular is worrying bearing in mind the numbers of people we have on housing waiting lists and the increasing number of homeless. Perhaps the Strategic Housing Team need to start looking to bringing these homes back into use by implementing our Empty Homes Strategy.

I was quite surprised at this next statistic, 20,062 current claims for single person 25% discount of council tax. Frankly, I would never have thought that as many as 34% of households are single.

The number of households on FULL Council Tax benefit was 9576 or 17% of total households, which means that these households are economically inactive but also include pensioner households in receipt of pension credit.

The number of households in receipt of PARTIAL Council Tax benefit is in effect a measure of the 'working poor' where there is someone within the household who is working but on a low income and that figure is 4419 or 7.6% of total households.

So what we have in effect is that a quarter of households in Wrecsam County Borough Council are living in relative poverty as defined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

By using these measures which are consistent across local authorities and rarely changes it is possibly to map improvements or deteriorations within local authorities and of course across local authorities. It would be an interesting exercise which unfortunately I don't have the time to undertake for all the local authorities in Wales but I will be doing this exercise for Wrecsam on a 6 monthly basis to see if we can detect an improvement in the economic situation and to see whether these figures correlate with job opportunities and a decrease in Job Seeker Allowance claimants.


Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Surprised that no Tories been on here commenting anonymously but there are again their knowledge never extends to understanding welfare and poverty!

Johnstown said...

Plaid Gwersyllt is taking a simplistic approach to poverty by looking at Work and Pensions statistics.

Considering he represents a ward which was part of the former Urban II area and currently benefiting from community development support he should know there are many factors which contribute to determining deprivation not just council tax.

WAG statistics suggest the economic prosperity situation in Wrexham County as a whole is improving, probably as a result of new development both employment and housing.

You cannot measure changes in the local economy based on variations in council tax benefit!

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

So Johnstown doesn't like council tax to measure household poverty, but why not? The whole purpose of using council tax is to use a simple meassure which one can compare over time and between authorities. It's as good a measure as any other.

Plaid Queensway said...

You cannot get an accurate picture by measuring changes in the local economy based on variations as a result of new housing either. A high level of housing development, acknowledged in Wrecsam to have encouraged higher levels of in migration, can heavily skew the average wage. These types of changes can actually disqualify areas in need from provision they would otherwise have been entitled to.

Anonymous said...

Plaid again show they are simplistic and cannot understand deprivation or the economy.

Again you criticise migration when it is contributing to improving communities and regeneration.

WAG statistics show there are a lot of positives from new developments.

Plaid Whitegate said...

"One of the reasons why homes are exempt is that they are empty and unfurnished and there are 522 of those."

It can't be right that empty homes qualify for a rebate on council tax. Some authorities charge empty homes (or holiday homes) double the council tax rate - at least this is an incentive for landlords to take some action rather than let their housing lie idle.

Park Lad said...

The fact is there are some empty homes which are derelict and homeowners cannot afford to bring them up to a letable standard.

Councils actually have powers to deal with the problem of empty homes.

To call for the introduction of a "double council tax" on empty homes can hardly be described as an incentive.

Homes fall into this category for a number of reasons. A lot of the time it is not because someone wants to sit on it as a holiday home.

It will further hit the property market, be a disincentive for people buying run down properties with a view to bringing them upto standard.

It amazes me that elected politicians support this kind of degeneration.

Plaid Whitegate said...

The council does have nominal powers to deal with the empty homes problem but forcing a landlord to sell a property or getting a housing association to take it on is very different and difficult in reality.
The example of the 3 derelict homes in Ruabon village centre is a classic example - after 2 years of trying, the council has still not been able to get them back into habitation.
Perhaps a double council tax on properties deliberately left empty would have been an incentive for the absentee landlord to take action more quickly.