The Hannaford correspondence: one swallow might not make a summer but two might

On February 25th I received a reply from Cllr Hannaford, explaining that the delay was caused by dealing with family issues, which is obviously fair enough.

This is her email to me …

Dear Bernard
Attached is the clarification of demographic trends you requested and the context by which my comment was made. I’m sorry the response is later than usual, but I think I explained my reasons.
I think the phrase ‘One Swallow dosent make a Summer’ is apt here.
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

kind regards

And here’s the attachment, presumably provided by the planning officers …

The purpose of using demographics in the Local Plan context is to understand the long term shifts and trends at play and try to predict how these may affect the future population and household pressures in Cornwall… Picking up on any individual year that says something different needs to be assessed against that longer term trend and our overall understanding.

The long term trend here is clear; we have experienced a reduction in negative natural change across a short period. The table below shows this and the reasons behind this are likely to be varied. We are seeing a greater balance of births to deaths than we have traditionally; there is also the impact of the nature of our aging community. People living longer have an implication for future housing need and we need to try and understand how that is changing over time. The census highlighted the increase in the number of single person households. The key to this and other issues is to try and understand not just the figures but what lies beneath them, what are the drivers for change over the long term. Changes in household formation rate is another area which has seen significant change but the question being asked nationally ,and the one which we will no doubt need to address at the examination is the degree to which that reflects a suppression of first time buyers coming onto the market.

In terms of natural change we experienced two years of small positive growth which set against figures ten years ago of nearly -1500 is quite dramatic and important to acknowledge if trying to understand the changes in Cornwall.

The most recent data from the latest mid -year estimates does show that this trend has returned to a smaller negative but looking at a single point it is dangerous to assume this is a “new” trend without several more years’ data. Data can fluctuate. This may be a one off or it may herald a period of further change.  Whichever way the last 10 year have shown a significant change in the dynamic of Cornwall’s population from quite significant surpluses of deaths over births to a closer balance as part of a larger population. It is important that this is understood as this is about meeting the needs of our future generations,

I hope this helps to clarify the position. Clearly you will be able to put your case on this and other issues to the local plan examination to test the Councils position in the near future.

Estimated population mid-year births deaths NC
2012-13 537914 5639 5996 -357
2011-12 533760 5831 5749 82
2010-11 529794 5743 5547 196
2009-10 526365 5407 5711 -304
2008-09 524973 5369 6007 -638
2007-08 521957 5271 5737 -466
2006-07 517984 5177 5885 -708
2005-06 515098 4909 5685 -776
2004-05 511810 4765 5970 -1205
2003-04 508579 4689 6019 -1330
2002-03 504644 4620 6093 -1473
2001-02 499937 4450 5820 -1370


Having digested this, most of which of course tended to ignore the simple issue of whether or not births are exceeding deaths ‘at the moment’, as claimed by Cllr Hannaford on radio and fed to her by her officers, I replied on the 26th as follows ….

Dear Edwina,

I note with interest however that even the mid year estimate data your planners provided show plainly that in the most recent year available the death rate exceeded the birth rate. This clearly contradicts the claim made on Radio Cornwall on December 16th that ‘the birth rate is outstripping the death rate’. It didn’t in 2012-13, the most recent year’s data available. Moreover, according to the registration data it didn’t in the calendar years 2012 or 2013 either.

in view of this evidence to the contrary, I trust that you will consider taking the next opportunity to apologise for inadvertently misleading the public on this point.

I’m attaching the comparative data. I urge you to look at it carefully. One swallow may not mean summer but two ought to make us think.

Let me know if I can be of further assistance in clarifying this,


And here’s the attachment expanding on this …


Your planners rightly state that we need to focus on trends, But what were the trends? It is clear that from the early 2000s to 2010 the excess of deaths over births disappeared. In 2002-03 there were 1,473 more deaths than births. By 2010-11 births had begun to exceed deaths.

However, this might prove to be relatively short-lived. In 2011-12 births only exceeded deaths by 82 while in 2012-13 deaths again outstripped births by 357. That suggests that during 2010-11 the trend of the previous decade reversed and we now again have a demographic regime with an excess of deaths over births.

Your planners claim this is somehow a one-off and we should ignore it. But look at the ONS registration data by place of usual residence. You can access this directly here and here. This provides slightly differing totals but mirrors the trends in the mid-year estimates. Here we see that the surplus of deaths over births in 2012 was repeated in 2013 and in fact grew larger.

Mid year estimates Registration data
births deaths change births deaths change
2013 5605 6047 -465
2012-13 5639 5996 -357 2012 5721 5889 -168
2011-12 5831 5749 82 2011 5808 5663 145
2010-11 5743 5547 192 2010 5558 5717 -159
2009-10 5407 5711 -304 2009 5440 5939 -499
2008-09 5369 6007 -638 2008 5442 5930 -488

The data surely imply that

  • Over the most recent two year period (2012-13) natural change has again been negative
  • This may well be a temporary fluctuation but it means that a statement that ‘the birth rate is outstripping the death rate at the moment’ is factually incorrect. At the moment they aren’t, as the above data demonstrate.


On 26th February Cllr Hannaford replied …

dear Bernard
I was referring to the previous 2 years, the data I had to hand. The death rate trend has been downwards over the previous 10 years. One year does not indicate a trend and this is not the only evidence, people are living a lot longer and single person households are more prevalent. There was no intention to deceive.
kind regards

I’ve now closed the correspondence

This entry was posted in discourses and ideologies, official statistics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Hannaford correspondence: one swallow might not make a summer but two might

  1. It seems to me that Cllr Hannaford, as instructed by planning officers, uses statistics in an entirely unscientific manner simply to back up a POLICY. It is the policy of the UK government, enacted by planning officers, which is dictating the concreting over of Cornwall. The policy isn’t to build sufficient houses to meet demographic changes but to encourage in-migration and this is what has to change. While Cllr Hannaford is rather embarrasing herslf with demographics, Cornwall is at the mercy of a MINIMUM of 47,500 houses to be built in the coming years. We have to bring the abilty to make basic strategic policy decisions (and all the appeals that go with the system) home to Cornwall – that is the only way to stop what is happening.


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