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.