10 June 2018
Everyone should have the freedom to improve their lives but Weymouth is unfortunately one of the worst areas in the country for social mobility coming a shocking 322nd out of 324 local authority areas.
In 2019 a new Dorset council will be formed and our county councillor for Rodwell in Weymouth, Clare Sutton, says this is a great chance to bring many more skilled jobs to Weymouth to give local people more opportunities.
Clare said, “Having grown up here and returned to bring up my children, I love my home town and it’s a great place to live if you have a decent job and a secure home and are in good health. However, I am all too aware of the lack of opportunities for young people in particular and am extremely disappointed that the motion I put forward was not agreed. It is important to keep this in the spotlight. As we move towards a single authority next year, certain services will need to find a home and I will continue to argue that the Council should locate skilled jobs, for example in Planning or Housing Services, in Weymouth.”
She reminded councillors that of the 12 neighbourhoods in Dorset in the top 20% nationally for multiple deprivation, 9 are in Weymouth and Portland, and 41% of local jobs pay less than the Living Wage (the average is 23%). Specifically, she asked that, when deciding where to locate certain services going forward, the council give special consideration to the fact that Weymouth and Portland really needs skilled jobs if it is to thrive.
While the council agreed that Weymouth and Portland face particular challenges, the vote on giving special consideration to where jobs are located was lost 2:1 and was not supported by a single Conservative councillor, including the three that represent divisions in Weymouth and Portland.
We think Clare's excellent motion and speech deserve to be read in full so here they are:
Many members will be aware that:
- 41% of jobs pay less than Living Wage Foundations’ Living Wage (the DCC average is 23%)
- Unemployment is almost double the Dorset average, and;
In light of all this, I call upon this Council to:
Thank you madam chairman.
Most members will be familiar with the indicators highlighted in my motion, but I will start with a few words of explanation.
The Social Mobility Commission uses 16 indicators to determine where people from disadvantaged backgrounds are most and least likely to make social progress. That my home town ranks third worst in the whole country shocked and upset me.
According to our own ‘State of Dorset 2018 – Deprivation’ report, of the 12 areas of Dorset in the bottom 20% nationally for multiple deprivation, 9 are in Weymouth and Portland. Yes, we all know there are pockets elsewhere, but the sheer concentration of deprivation in Weymouth and Portland must also give us serious cause for concern.
Members will know that many other indicators paint a similar picture, from wages and unemployment to health outcomes, school performance and the incidence of rough sleeping.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my home town, and Portland too, where my mum lives. I grew up in Weymouth and returned 13 years ago to bring up my children. It was the right decision. It’s a fantastic place to grow up, and even if you don’t have much money you can enjoy a good quality of life if you are healthy, in work and have a secure home.
But herein lies the rub.
I and all my Weymouth Grammar School-educated friends left our town as young adults to seek more opportunities and better jobs. When I returned 20 years later, I was lucky enough to secure a good job in Poole. I have recently been made redundant. Having scoured the jobs market for 6 weeks, I have found just 2 decent jobs I can apply for in my home town, and both of those pay 15% below the average salary. So how are many of our school leavers and young adults to get a start in life and a foot on the housing ladder?
I am sure my children, and those of my friends, will follow in our footsteps and leave in search of better opportunities. But what of their classmates whose parents do not have a good education and are still working for £7.50 an hour? And so the vicious cycle of decline continues.
In my motion, I remind fellow members that, as part of our Corporate Plan, we are committed to prioritising resources to challenge inequalities in outcomes for Dorset’s people.
Do we really mean this, or is it just words?
I think we do mean it, and I therefore call upon this Council to:
All 46 of us have a responsibility to advocate for residents in our Divisions, but we also have a responsibility to ALL our residents. This is not about party politics. Indeed, the 7 councillors here whose divisions lie in Weymouth and Portland come from all 4 parties.
I therefore hope we can all readily agree a and b of this motion. In relation to c, I know all areas have their problems, but I do hope we can collectively acknowledge that Weymouth and Portland have far more than their ‘fair share’.
But d is the nub. There are many factors to be considered as LGR rolls out, but the fact that W&P need relatively skilled and well paid jobs far more than other parts of Dorset must be given special consideration if our corporate commitment to “prioritise resources to challenge inequalities in outcomes” has any real meaning.
From Weymouth and Portland, our most advantaged young people go to Hardy’s to get the best education; our better-skilled adults travel to County Hall and elsewhere for decently-paid jobs, taking their lunch money with them, while the leisure pound increasingly migrates to Brewery Square and further afield. At the same time, Weymouth and Portland property prices stagnate. Indeed, this has been cited as one factor in locating certain services in Weymouth, for example the Rehabilitation Hub, which I wholeheartedly support, because property is too expensive elsewhere, leading to the perception in some quarters that Weymouth is being used as a ‘dumping ground’. But maybe we can turn this to advantage! As the new Unitary Authority reduces its estate, assets in Weymouth and Portland will generate lower receipts than assets elsewhere, so why not use them for services which need to be relocated, in an area where there is affordable accommodation for the potential workforce?
There is much more to be done, but, here and now, we have an opportunity to do something concrete, beyond warm words, to really make a difference to the life chances of young people and others in the poorest part of our county. Please, please agree this final part of my motion and let us seize this opportunity."