In what can only be described as another frustrating twelve months in opposition we have witnessed another period under the Conservatives administration where the people of Cornwall have had to put up with further cuts to our services with council tax increases of 4.99% at the maximum allowed rate.

This at a time when so many households are struggling with the cost of living crisis and the burden of higher interest rates. For a long time now it has been clear to most of us that Cornwall Council cannot continue to raise council tax annually by the maximum permitted whilst cutting services, when so many just can’t afford it. Unless there is a fundamental shift in how local government is financed, including a fairer funding formula, it is only a matter of time before we face the same severe financial problems that other councils are faced with today.

Locally it’s becoming increasingly obvious the impact the Highways budget cuts are having on our roads, with a noticeable deterioration over the winter, with many more potholes opening up and many improvement schemes just being pushed further back as the necessary funding is no longer there to carry out the work. The recent update on the A388 highlighted this, as it was incredibly disappointing to be told that most of the maintenance works along this stretch of road are now complete with the remainder planned, we expected much more. CC have said “We have adopted a risk based approach to highway maintenance, and this and our service standards are set out in the Highway Maintenance Manual (HMM). We are prioritising spend on carriageway maintenance and capital lining works this coming year. When the accident list for this financial year becomes available, we will look at the causation for accidents and will prioritise treatment where maintenance (or lack of maintenance) factors may have been a possible contributing factor. With a network of some 7300km of carriageway to maintain and given all of the A388 recommendations have now been addressed or will be imminently addressed, we cannot commit to specific further funding for this corridor, only that we will continue to maintain it in accordance with our statutory duty following the risk-based approach as set out in the HMM”. Those who live locally know just how dangerous this road is and, to me, this response is a cop out, caused purely by the stringent cuts to the budget. By hiding behind the highway maintenance manual, it is becoming clear the council are reaching a point where their spend will be the bare minimum they can get away with on repairing our roads to meet their statutory obligations!

Still little progress in recent times has been made at Plusha, with a number of serious accidents happening over the last 12 months, we still await an announcement from National Highways to make drastic safety improvements.

Despite all the difficulties we have managed to deliver some positives. After six years of trying to find a new site to deliver a fit for purpose library in Launceston, to replace the old building which has fallen into a poor state of repair, Cornwall Council purchased the old Barclays Bank building in the Town Square. The building will provide a multi-use hub site for the library service, registrar and information centre, ideally located in the centre of town allowing accessibility for all. It will preserve and make good use of this landmark town building, whilst safeguarding the library and registration service for Launceston.

Some other additional good news, was that local business man Michael Davey stepped in to save Launceston Leisure centre from closure, it was always expected that Cornwall Council when giving up their tenancy, should hand the building back in the same condition as when they took it on all those years ago. Following a business plan for the centre being presented to Cornwall Council and much negotiation, they have now agreed to a three year financial package of £792000 to go towards the improvements which need to be made, such as a new roof and improved energy efficiency. Steady progress is being made with the recently seen planning permission granted for a new café with expansion of the premises. Again when we are seeing so many leisure providers grappling with high running costs, this news has been most welcomed. One would hope securing it’s future, whilst keeping a swimming pool in our town for future generations to use.

We also had to deal with Cornwall Council proposing to cut the free school transport for children attending Launceston College from South Petherwin, Tregadillett and a number of other routes across Cornwall. So it was a relief when the Conservative administration finally caved in and were forced to make another spectacular U-turn. The most recent review had caused a great deal of anxiety and upset for all children and families involved, clearly the routes highlighted were far from safe for children to be walking, along narrow lanes with no footways or street lighting. After intense lobbying from our local councillors and responses received by local residents to the recent public consultation, they changed their stance and thankfully common sense has prevailed.

As we head into the final year of this administration, my concern is how much further and harder can those at the helm cut into our vital services. We are told they will continue delivering vital services for residents despite the fiscal pressures faced by local government across the country. The details include a net increase of around £37m in spending on care for Adults and Children in Cornwall. In addition, there is a near £9m net increase built in in respect of Home to School Transport and around £7m to support Temporary and Emergency Accommodation reflecting the significant demand pressures being experienced in these areas.

In desperation now the cabinet are looking to sell off 2000 of our stunning Cornish beaches, green spaces, carparks and many more of our most loved places across the Duchy to save and raise money. The Council’s Cabinet have been very clear that they are financially struggling and need to make £2 million this year from offloading our publicly owned assets. Even Newquay Airport, Spaceport and the 650 acres that surround it are at risk!

The Cabinet say that their preference would be to transfer the sites to the National Trust, English Heritage and other organisations to look after them out of their charity funds. This example has been replicated over and over again in the past with toilets, libraries, art galleries, theatres and parks in Cornwall. More often than not when Cornwall Council has wanted to offload them Town councils have had to step in. That means that Town councils have had to raise the money to look after them, so the taxpayer is still ultimately paying for it. In reducing Cornwall Council’s responsibility for running so many of these local assets, local taxpayers are also getting less value for their money from ever-increasing tax rises from Cornwall Council. Locally, Kit Hill is one of our most iconic landmarks, which is also under Cornwall Councils control, whatever happens, we must ensure this public space remains open and free for all to visit and enjoy!

We will again see the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry, tolls rise from £2.60 to £3.00 for cars with a caveat that, if more funding is secured from Westminster, the toll rises could be cancelled. Again it feels like many further down west don’t understand the impact this has on those of us who live in the East of Cornwall.

The recent rise in car parking charges continues to add concern, it had been hoped these charges would be reversed but this never materialised, with concerns raised from those who shop, live or have businesses both in the towns of Callington and Launceston. The first issue was the general decision which increases the first hour charges in the main Car Parks. Cornwall Council has, for many years, lauded themselves as protectors of Town Centre Vitality, however they have backed a decision which could hit market town centres badly.

In Callington when the Coop was in the main car park, a deal had been agreed which saw them effectively pay the 1 hour charge to encourage people to use the town centre. When they left, this was expected to continue with the new tenants B&M but this failed to materialise, now this has again been reviewed and the council are disappointingly going to be reintroducing the charge.

Also in the not to distant future we will see the roll out of the new waste and recycling collections for our area, hopefully by the time it reaches us some of the teething issues experienced in other areas will have been ironed out!

In what has been a challenging period we must continue to hold this administration to account where we can. Again I am extremely grateful to be able to work with Parish Councils who are determined to succeed. Whilst also under the newly formed Tamar to Moor Network Panel area I am extremely fortunate to have committed Cornwall Councillors in John Conway, Adam Paynter, Dorothy Kirk and Andrew Long to work alongside. Whilst all being from different political persuasions we are determined to do our best for the area we represent.

Notice Date: 20/05/2024