IN MY VIEW: Joined-up thinking needed to sustain local economies

Sam Tate, Selsey Town co-ordinator.Picture by Kate Shemilt.
Sam Tate, Selsey Town co-ordinator.Picture by Kate Shemilt.

OFFICE of National Statistics data released this week highlighted that in real terms, Chichester is the third most unaffordable place to live in the UK, when you take into account the high cost of housing and relative low wages.

Of the 1.1 million people in the UK who have found jobs since 2008, more than two thirds (723,000) are self-employed. Sounds good, yes?

Yet, in that same period, the average earnings of self-employed workers have dropped by a staggering 22 per cent versus a painful, but more manageable drop of six per cent for salaried workers. Not so good...

Given that Chichester district has a higher-than-average rate of self-employed workers (as much as 14.5 per cent of the total workforce), this reduction in self-employed earnings has a huge knock-on effect on the whole of our local economy.

The main employment sectors locally are historically low-paid – retail, hospitality, agriculture, care and local government, so the challenge is growing the areas of the economy that can provide better wages and better incomes for all – things like fast fibre broadband make that more of a possibility for the rural areas now, but there needs to be more joined-up thinking on this from local authorities, the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership and central government.

At the moment we risk losing our next generation of workers to places where the housing is cheaper and the cost of living is more affordable – and it highlights the need for action on employers paying staff a living wage, not just the bare minimum.

Training and development and low-cost rural business hubs like SelseyWorks are part of the answer, but it needs a much more co-ordinated effort on the part of key players to figure out how facilities like ours can be financed and secured for the long term, as they will be vital to any long-term strategy to improve the quality of life for working local people.

Sam Tate, Selsey Town Coordinator, Selsey Works