The impact of manufacturing closures on WIMD and Communities First
My main thesis was that areas in Wales appearing at the top, i.e., most deprived, end of the new Index do so because of the credit crunch and resultant recession and the way that it impacted on manufacturing, in particular, in 2008, the first half of which was when the underlying data comprising the Employment and Income indices were collated (though other years’ data comprises other indices, these are weighted less). In essence the WIMD was a snapshot of an aberrational year, though no doubt the effects of the recession linger on and will continue to do so.
Lots of ‘new’ areas appeared at the top of WIMD, but they overwhelmingly concentrate in the two manufacturing heartlands of Wales: north east Wales and the M4 corridor.
Pyle/Pil, Blackwood/Coed-Duon, Church Village, Treorchy/Treorci, Llandaff North/Ystum Taf, Cadoxton/Tregatwg, Shaftesbury (in Newport/Casnewydd)
Connah’s Quay/Cei Connah, Sealand/Gwlad y Mor, Denbigh/Dinbych, Oakenholt, Gwersyllt and Penycae (both in Wrexham/Wrecsam), Prestatyn, Cefn Mawr, Ruabon/Rhiwabon
Consider that there is already significant deprivation in NE Wales, i.e., areas in the Communities First programme (e.g., Flint Castle/Castell Y Fflint, Holywell/Treffynnon, Shotton and parts of Wrexham/Wrecsam and its surrounding villages) and along the M4 corridor in the principal cities and north into the valleys, then the direct impact of manufacturing closures and their indirect impact (ancillary services, supply chains, reduced neighbourhood spend etc.) appears to have been particularly pernicious.
Even a cursory online search of manufacturing closures from 2008 cites examples such as Fenmarc, Kimball, Flexsys, Paramount Foods, Bosch, Burberry and AB Electronics.
Ever since Communities First status was awarded automatically to the 100 most deprived electoral divisions identified in the original 2000 publication, there has been a close association between the programme and WIMD. This has not changed. Many of these new LSOAs will be eligible for Communities First status from April 2013, if not before. However it will be interesting to see whether the next WIMD data sees these areas fall back down to a more ‘real’ rank in the WIMD as the impact of job loss programmes such as ReAct, the benefits system, enterprise zones and support from employers themselves ameliorates the effect of these job losses. They certainly ought to have an impact by helping to cushion the blow of redundancy and help them into other employment (though whether this offers work of equal or worse pay and conditions is another question). So that these areas need help is without question, but is it the sort of help that an anti-poverty programme like Communities First offers, inclined as it is towards areas with deeply-rooted, multi-generational poverty rather than areas experiencing a relatively ephemeral shock?
This is not to downplay the impact of these manufacturing closures. Indeed, one might argue that an inability to recover from such employment shocks with replacement industries and/or employers helps poverty take root. It was interesting to recently read about the proposed joint work between a pair of new Communities First clusters in a borough and an Enterprise Zone which is largely coterminous with one of them.
The next WIMD will make interesting reading, and we are already approaching the half way point in the usual cycle of publication of a new index.