Statement from Steve Double MP on Cosgarne Hall and St Austell: Calls for curfew, rejects that cuts are responsible, Council should do more


This afternoon St Austell & Newquay MP Steve Double released this statement (we issue without edit) about Cosgarne Hall and the murder in St Austell this week

Statement from Steve Double MP on Cosgarne Hall and St Austell

I wish to make a statement following the tragic events that took place here in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Firstly, it is a tragedy that someone has lost their life here and our condolences, thoughts and prayers are with the family of Steven Bull.

I also want to pay tribute to our local Police who within hours had three suspects in custody who have now been charged with murder.

The swift action of the Police mean that the people of St Austell can be confident that we do not have a murderer loose in our town.

But I do believe there are things that need to be said and lessons learnt from this terrible event.

It has now been confirmed that the victim and the three suspects were all residents of Cosgarne Hall.

I do not believe we can ignore this fact.

Like many residents of this town I have become increasingly concerned about the way Cosgarne has been run and the effect this facility has been having on our town.

I want to make clear I am speaking out today because I care.

I care about my home town. The local residents and businesses who have been struggling with the growing impact of antisocial behaviour in this part of St Austell and the Town Centre.

But I also care about the truly vulnerable people who are the residents of Cosgarne.

It is clear that when someone is murdered and three fellow residents are arrested and charged for that murder something is wrong.

I do not see how anyone came claim that Cosgarne is a safe and positive place for people in need of housing and support after the events of this week.

I am not questioning the motives of those who run Cosgarne – many of whom are dedicated to helping people who are in genuine need.

And there is no doubt that Cosgarne has helped a number of people who have gone there for help and support.

I have met with and have heard from people who have paid tribute to the way time living at Cosgarne has helped turn their lives around.

But when you run an endeavour such as this you cannot become closed to the wider effect your efforts have on the community around you.

Sadly I believe this is what has happened to those that are responsible for running Cosgarne.

However much good is being done, and I accept there are some good things being achieved, I believe we have reached a point where the negative impact of this service being located on the edge of our town centre, out weighs that good.

We have now reached a point where a resident has been murdered in a children’s playground. How serious do things have to get before things change.

This is not only my own view, I speak on behalf on a large number of residents of this town who say enough is enough. We cannot go on like this. Something has to change.

I wish to make clear I have not simply come to this position out of some reaction to the events of this week.

I have had growing concerns about Cosgarne and the way it was being run for some time.

As a result of these concerns I went and visited Cosgarne in September. I met with the management. Listened to how the home was run and raised my concerns.

I have also met with the local Police, business leaders and local residents to try to understand the real situation.

As a result of numerous meetings and discussions I was actually in the process of writing a report on my findings.

However the events of this week has somewhat overrun this process and I believe it is right that I speak out now.

I am concerned about the way Cosgarne is being run generally and I have a number of specific concerns.

I am concerned about the size of Cosgarne and the number of residents they accommodate.

In total they accommodate 62 people all with varying degrees of dependency or other major needs.

I believe this is too many and has grown to become unmanageable.

Having this many people with these needs concentrated in this location has become a problem for the residents and businesses of our town.

Just recently, despite giving assurance to the contrary, they expanded their facilities to accommodate more people.

Following the closure of Clinton House the big fear from local people who contacted me was that they would buy Clinton House and further expand their property empire.

So I have a very clear message – St Austell cannot take any more. We have more than enough supported housing facilities.

In fact we have too much and we certainly do not want anymore, and I believe I will be supported by a large number of local people, and will fight any moves to increase these type of facilities in our town.

And I call on Cosgarne to reduce the number of people they accommodate to a more manageable and appropriate level for our town.

I am concerned that unlike most other establishments of this type Cosgarne do not have a curfew.

You have to ask how and why four residents of the home can be allowed to wander the streets of St Austell at 4am with tragic consequences.

I call on those that run Cosgarne to immediately introduce a curfew and make sure your residents are safely inside at night. Both for their own safety and that of the local community.

I am concerned about the lax attitude to drug use at Cosgarne.

When I visited the management admitted to me that they ‘turn a blind eye’ to illegal drugs being used on the premises.

Indeed when I was visiting I witnessed drugs being openly taken and what appeared to me to be drug deals taking place on the premises.

I cannot accept that if you are truly seeking to rehabilitate drug users freely allowing drugs to be taken openly on site is good for the residents.

At the very least it creates a ready market to every drug dealer in this area and acts as a pull factor for others who wish to use illegal drugs to come to St Austell.

I am concerned at the attitude of those who run Cosgarne who I am sure want to do good. But I believe they have become closed minded to the impact their establishment has on the wider community.

Even their response to date to the events of this week has lacked any acknowledgment that they could in any way be held responsible for what took place.

So I call on those who run Cosgarne to open their eyes and ears. Watch what is happening and listen to the concerns of local people and take responsibility for the actions of those that you look after.

And I am also concerned at the impact the presence of Cosgarne has on our town.

There is no doubt in my mind that they act as a magnet that attracts people to St Austell.

A message I hear consistently from local people is that we have no problem with our town playing its part in looking after our share vulnerable people.

But what we do object to is our town being used as a dumping ground for people from all over Cornwall and indeed further afield.

There is evidence that there are many, possibly in the hundreds, of people with chaotic and disruptive lifestyles who now live in our town as a direct result of Cosgarne being located here.

I know that some people have said that this tragedy is a consequence of cuts this Government has made to public spending.

I totally reject this notion.

You only have to look at the accounts of Cosgarne to realise that this is not about lack of money.

Cosgarne has plenty of money – virtually all of it from the tax payer.

I have raised my concerns a number of times that the owner of the property takes £250,000 a year from the charity.

I am not saying that other services are not facing financial challenges in the current climate but what I am saying is that money was not an issue in this case.

I also want to raise concerns about the role that Cornwall Council have in this.

Most of the money Cosgarne receives comes from Cornwall Council either through its Supporting People budget or Housing Benefit.

Surely as a result of this week’s events there is a safeguarding issue here.

If a Residential Home for elderly people is closed as a result of the way it was run surely a resident being allegedly murdered by fellow residents must raise very serious concerns about the way this establishment is being run.

If we take the parallel with care homes – they are subject to inspection and regulation way above anything Cosgarne is subject to. Yet Cosgarne houses people with more complex and chaotic needs.

Cornwall Council put hundred’s of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money into Cosgarne – I believe they have a duty to ensure it is safe for residents and the local community.

Cosgarne Hall has been providing housing and support to vulnerable people in St Austell for around 30 years.

But I am concerned that in recent times the nature of the work it does and the people it accommodates has changed.

What started out as a safe place for local homeless people who needed housing and help and support with their alcohol dependency has grown into something else altogether.

When I went to visit only one third of the residents were from St Austell.

People from all over the country are coming here many of them with criminal records.

I know for instance that over the last 2 years more than 20 residents of Cosgarne have appeared in court some facing serious charges.

A number of residents are staying at Cosgarne whilst on bail.

We are told that Cosgarne is a place for local vulnerable people to be housed and supported.

But we now appear to have a facility that is closer to another Bail Hostel for criminals from far and wide.

And all this without the regulation and framework that proper bail hostel’s have in place.

It is time for the management of Cosgarne to come clean and be honest with the local community as to who they are accommodating.

This is no longer a local charity seeking to provide housing and support for local people facing hard times.

It has become a big business, funded by the tax payer, that brings criminals and drug addicts to our town who otherwise would not be here.

In their response to my comments in the press this week an unnamed source from Cosgarne accused me of using this tragedy to further my campaign to close them down.

I want to state that although I have on a number of occasions challenged the way that Cosgarne is run and the impact it has on our town I have not had a campaign to close it down.

I have spent the past few months trying to understand precisely what goes on there and try to be constructive in my challenge to them.

Unlike others I have taken the time to visit, to meet residents and staff and to talk to local residents, Police and business leaders.

I am grateful that I live in a town where an event like this is still rare and shocks us.

I do not want to sit by and watch things deteriorate to such a degree that we are no longer shocked.

So I am speaking out today.

I am speaking out on behalf of the majority of local decent law abiding citizens who have their lives regularly disrupted by antisocial behaviour.

I am speaking out on behalf of the local businesses who have contacted me and said things cannot go on like this and the imagine of our town is being damaged.

I am speaking out on behalf of those families who tell me they will no longer bring their children into St Austell Town Centre because of the abuse they are subjected to.

And I am saying something has to change.

I am not saying that Cosgarne is the cause of all the problems we face.

The challenges our town faces are numerous and complex.

But like many others, I am frustrated that every time I try to work to improve things, I run into the issue of the impact the behaviour of a few people has on our town.

Some will say that Cosgarne is trying to be part of the solution. Sadly I have come to the point where I believe Cosgarne is contributing far more to the problem than it is the solution.

So I am calling to those responsible for running Cosgarne to take a long hard look at what is going on. To listen to the concerns of local people. To change the way they operate and take more responsibility for the impact their residents have on the community.

To stop taking people from far and wide and get back to providing a safe service for truly local people who have fallen on hard times or lost their way?

If you are unwilling or unable to do this then maybe it is time to consider whether you should be in our town.

If you cannot run a service that is safe for your residents and the local community then maybe it is time to close. “