This week Cornwall Council announced its spending plans from 2015 to 2019. Over recent months I have joined others in calling for the Council to focus its plans on providing services in a new way, based around working in partnership with other organisations, whilst delivering support for the most vulnerable members of our community. I am pleased to say that the Council has to some extent heeded our calls.
Budgets for vulnerable adults and children have been earmarked for particular protection. Budgets for the essential road infrastructure and bus services we all depend upon will also be protected. I think that we can all largely agree that these are the areas in which spending should be maintained.
Partners to help the Council deliver other services are being sought, particularly in Cornwall’s voluntary sector. The Council plans to have many more public services in Cornwall delivered by partnerships, crucially this will include social care services. This is important, there is real potential to improve quality of care, and to cut waste, through integrating adult and children’s social services with the NHS and voluntary partners. It is good to also see Cornwall Council finally positively accepting localism, devolving services to our Town and Parish Councils.
This approach has been enabled by the fact that, contrary to claims made by Council Leader Cllr Pollard in the local media, central government funding for Cornwall is not coming to an end.
Like every family, business and public service in Cornwall during the recession the Council has had to make savings. These are as a result of the Labour years of spending more than collected in taxes. The financial situation should not be exaggerated - this year Cornwall Council will overall be spending a sum comparable to what it was spending in 2007/2008 when we had six district and a county council.
I am disappointed to see that the Council continue to misrepresent Cornwall’s funding situation when compared to other parts of the country. Cllr Folkes has compared Cornwall’s funding to the funding the London Borough of Hackney receives. This is not fair– can you imagine two places more different that Cornwall and Hackney? It is more instructive to compare Cornwall with all other English unitary authorities. This shows Cornwall to be in the middle of the pack. Overall, as all Council’s deal with funding cuts, Cornwall’s reduction in spending power is less than the English average. We have made progress and of course we need to go further and I will continue to campaign on this with my Conservative colleagues in the Rural Fair Shares House of Commons campaign group.
I will be doing all I can to ensure that the Council delivers on its promises of working in partnership to protect the services people rely on. I am determined to make Cornwall the best place to raise a family and grow old in. A Cornwall Council delivering first class services whilst saving local taxpayer’s money could help achieve this. This can and must be delivered.