Cornwall Council’s Budget

Posted on: 26th September 2013

The situation is that the funding from Government, for years the main source of Cornwall Council funding, is being slashed.

To complicate matters, we have a rising population of elderly and disabled people needing more and more support and complex care. To deliver the 1,300 + things that Cornwall Council is required by statute to do as a council it has to find savings or increase its income. There are difficult, almost impossible choices and it will not be possible to protect all the services and facilities that local people love.

This bleak summary is not what motivated me to become a Councillor. This is where, as well as doing the formal stuff, at County Hall, I have to learn the skills to become a community leader so that we, together, rise to the challenge and preserve what is important to our community. I have some ideas and have started conversations to lay the foundations for this and there will be much more on this, over future months.

In the meantime what are my views. Well, whether it is the library, a local bus route or the toilets there are dilemmas. When I have put out local surveys, it is clear that to groups in our communities specific services and facilities are essential to the quality of their lives. Others, that do not use that service or facility, do ask questions about why they have to pay tax to fund it when they never use it. Some of these much loved things do not get high volume use – how many times do we see a large bus travelling with passengers that would fit comfortably in a people carrier or minibus?

So the challenge is not just to shout and seek to defend what we personally cherish but to be creative at looking at new ways of delivering what people want. This might mean we have to become less attached to a building or service as it is delivered now and seek a similar community benefit, provided another way. It may mean that we have to pay some money, at the point of use, towards the things that we cherish locally but councils do not get funding for and they are not required to do.

On the other hand, if we are all in this together then two things strike me.

1. As councillors we have to make sure that we are not seeking to have ‘perks’ because we do not think we are paid enough for being available to our communities almost daily and having to plough through hours of paperwork and emails to prepare for meetings or to help local residents with issues. Watch out for the next council agenda as a motion is being formulated on this that I hope I can support.

2. Street lights are throughout Cornwall, in rural villages and town centres. If we were to turn off all but the most essential ones in town centres and difficult road junctions, between say midnight and 6 a.m it would save money, reduce light pollution and reduce our energy consumption as a County.

Some might say that it would increase crime or they would not feel safe out late at night. There is evidence that such a move can reduce crime because young people, hanging around the streets, go home or cannot see clear enough the opportunity of an open window or car with something left on the back seat.

It would affect us all in equal measure and I suspect after a very short space of time, we would not miss them at all. Well I have asked for details of what this might save and if you think this is one, relatively painless way to save some of the money, then speak up and support me during this period of consultation at under ‘Have your say on’ then ‘the Council budget’. Get involved and join the budget debate!