With the year drawing to a close, and hopefully the UK’s longest and deepest recession with it, I’ve spent a little time looking at how Wandsworth has coped.

I’ve repeatedly said that while Wandsworth isn’t immune to the effects of recession it is better placed than most to weather it.

The graphs below are various comparisons of Jobseekers Allowance claims. This isn’t a measure of unemployment (those figures aren’t produced for some months) since people can be unemployed without claiming JSA. And it isn’t the complete story; it ignores the take-up of other benefits and things like business failures or high street vacancies (Wandsworth has actually seen little change in these rates during the recession).

However, JSA can be a good indicator. So…

These graphs consider the period from January 2008 until October 2009, the represent (where appropriate) the highest rate in red, the lowest rate in green and Wandsworth in blue.

First up is a straight comparison between Wandsworth and the national rate of claims.

Wandsworth and national rate of JSA claims Jan 08 - Oct 09

A good story for Wandsworth. Overall the gap between the lines has increased. In January Wandsworth’s rate was 0.4% below the national rate, it’s now 0.8% – overall JSA claims have risen less here than nationally, there would be about 800 more people signing on if we’d followed the national trend.

However, the past few months seems to show the national figure on a plateau, while Wandsworth has still increased a little. This may be because people who have lost their jobs in Wandsworth (which has a high proportion of people working in the financial sector) have been living off their own means before signing on, but that is just conjecture, the figures will need watching for a few months to see if the trend continues.

Next is a comparison between Wandsworth and the highest and lowest inner London borough rates.

Wandsworth and the highest and lowest inner London borough JSA claim rates - Jan 08 - Oct 09

Again, I think a good story. Wandsworth (the blue line) has the second lowest rate (Kensington and Chelsea, the green line). While our performance against them has deteroriated, we’ve seen the gap between us and the worst affected borough open from a 3% to a 3.5% difference so, proportionately, we’ve not been hit as hard as other inner London areas. And having the second lowest rate after Kensington and Chelsea is no cause for shame.

Finally, a comparison within the borough. This needs a slight caveat; the rates are calculated against smaller populations (the difference between thousands in a ward compared to 100,000 to 200,000 in most boroughs) so the rates can fluctuate more. However, over the period it shows a fairly clear pattern.

Wandsworth lowest and highest ward JSA rates Jan 08 - Oct 09

The story here is not so good. While we haven’t been as badly affected as some parts of the country those differences are reflected within Wandsworth. Ideally the rate of change would be the same, indicating a borough that is relatively cohesive. However, the gap between highest rate (Latchmere, in Battersea) and bottom (Thamesfield, in Putney) has widened from 3.5% to 4.4%. This is not an ideal situation and suggests some parts of the borough, because of poor transport links, access to employment opportunities or education and training are suffering more than than other parts. Exactly why things like the Employment and Skills Partnership are needed to target public resources to address those imbalances.

Overall, I think my repeated comment that Wandsworth has not been hit as hard as elsewhere has been true. And even Wandsworth’s worse wards haven’t been affected as badly as, say, Tower Hamlets or Hackney. But it does bring home that just performing better than elsewhere is rarely a cause for complacency.

3 thoughts on “Wandsworth in the recession

  1. The recession is ongoing because so much needs to be reset.

    The other caveat I would add is the number of people resident in Wandsworth paying tax but unable to claim JSA or similar benefits from the UK government. My very anecdotal evidence is Wandsworth does have a high portion of those types of people which would further improve the numbers (a little anyway).

    And to bang on about my favourite hobby horse, Wandsworth should do more to attract entrepreneurial (read startups) from the Tech community.

    • Technically recession is two successive quarters of “negative growth”, so the first quarter in my stats isn’t part of the recession since the economy was stagnant (growth was 0%) and I suspect that we will be out of recession from the third quarter. However the effects continue long after and it’s not unusual to see occasional quarters of contraction.

      I suspect you are right on the demographics in Wandsworth depressing the JSA figures. Some very back of the envelope calculations I did comparing older JSA figures against the actual unemployment figures showed that in the more affluent wards a lower proportion of unemployed people were claiming JSA. Not statistically valid (far too small a sample, before you even consider the other factors at play) but it certainly backs up my – and your – instinct.

      Your final point is not lost. We do a lot to encourage small business, and have the Youth Enterprise Centre in Tooting, but we don’t specifically encourage start-ups in a particular sector, though we do look at this from time to time and when potential funding opportunities present themselves. There is something of a technology and creative centre in Wandsworth so it is something we would strongly consider.

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