State of Cornwall in the National Context
Full transcript of Council Leader’s address to Full Council 25th July 2017
by Adam Paynter, Leader, Cornwall Council
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As members will be aware, the Leader’s State of Cornwall address was deferred from the Annual Council meeting until today to allow for the election of the Leader.
However, members will recall that the Chief Executive delivered a very honest Stewardship of the Council address at the meeting and I want to reiterate a number of the important points she made.
Without doubt the next four years will provide a set of challenges that only a strong and united Cornwall can conquer.
The scale of those challenges are so great that, irrespective of the make-up of the political administration, there has to be a team approach which transcends national politics in Cornwall’s best interest.
So what are those fundamental challenges…
- Firstly, it is evident population is growing and is expected to reach 633,000 by 2035; but growth isn’t consistent across Cornwall with the number of people living in popular coastal towns falling – Padstow and St Ives being prime examples where second home ownership is resulting in fewer all year round residents.
- Secondly, population change is having a profound impact on services; 1 in 4 of residents will be 65+ by 2019 and by 2025 36% of residents are expected to be living aged 85 and above.
- Thirdly, our settlement pattern presents challenges; 60% of our population live in key settlements of less than 3,000 people. Allied to the changes in age profile this raises profound questions about how we meet the future needs of residents in these isolated communities.
- Fourthly, deprivation remains a persistent concern; Around 69,450 of Cornwall’s population live in the 20% most ‘deprived’ communities in England and 36,000 of households are calculated to be in fuel poverty.
- Finally, and somewhat sobering, despite investment our economy is still underperforming; just taking GVA per capita as an example, in 2015 Cornwall was ranked 37th out of 40 regions – the same ranking as in 1999!
In my view many of these challenges risk being intensified by the impact of Brexit on Cornwall.
That is why Cornwall needs to speak with a strong and united voice to ensure that the Brexit settlement supports Cornwall’s economy and doesn’t send it backwards.
We need to seize the opportunities provided by Brexit and call on the Government to adopt the principle of ‘double devolution’ to ensure that powers repatriated from the EU do not stop at Westminster, Stormont, Cardiff Bay and Holyrood – they also get devolved to Cornwall.
But to do so we need to be viewed by the Government as being credible and capable.
That means making sure every penny of the remaining EU funding is spent wisely and timely – and the dualling of the A30 at Temple and Higher Carblake is a very well-timed and prime example of Cornwall Council doing precisely that.
We need to continue to show the Government that we can deliver transformational projects of that nature to maximise our chances of gaining a share of the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund that is equivalent to the amount of EU funding Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will lose as a result of Brexit.
The Chamber also needs to stand together in order to put the case to the Government for a fairer funding settlement for Cornwall.
An alternative funding formula has been devised by Leicestershire County Council based on actual cost drivers, such as deprivation levels, sparsity and age profile – the very challenges I outlined earlier.
If the Government adopts that model, Cornwall would receive an extra £45m every year.
I hope that incentivises collaboration given the positive impact that would have on the lives of thousands of people in Cornwall especially as the biggest service risk that we face over the four years relates to people services.
People are living much longer often with highly complex needs and multiple conditions, there is greater demand to help vulnerable children and their families and the Council’s role in overall educational standards is more important than ever.
That is precisely why this issue is at the forefront of our Priorities for Cornwall.
And we’ve acted on words with a report being considered by Cabinettomorrow that sets out the direction of travel for people services that will transform and improve the health and social care offer in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
This is such an important issue that I urge Members to put party politics aside in order to achieve this critical goal.
And now to the significant issue of our economy, which is another key feature of our Priorities for Cornwall.
I’m determined that this administration addresses the issue of the significant gap between income levels and house prices.
To do so will require the Council to take even more direct intervention and delivery than witnessed in previous years.
In practical terms this means rethinking our own approach to investment so we are in a position to deliver the Local Plan and change the relationship with developers to unlock stalled regeneration schemes that create inclusive growth and increase prosperity for all.
Furthermore, Cornwall needs to be considered as an investable proposition and I’m not sure that is the case at the moment.
We need to provide a greater certainty of approach and narrative as we’ve got a number of major regeneration schemes that provide opportunities that haven’t yet been realised – Hayle Harbour being a prime example.
Again, we’ve wasted no time in delivering on our Priorities. Attomorrow’s Cabinet meeting we will be considering an ambitious programme of additional capital investment that will enable the Council to deliver much needed affordable homes, employment space and infrastructure to meet the needs of our communities.
As stated in our Priorities for Cornwall, I’m determined to ensure that Cornwall is Brexit ready and in my opinion this requires greater collaboration at a regional level to strengthen our economy.
Cornwall will only be able to attract the levels of global investment that we need if it is part of a strong South West offer. The North and the Midlands are already ahead of us in boosting their economy through regional collaboration and we need to catch up quick.
That means making sure Cornwall plays a leading role in generating an alliance across all the councils and LEPs to shape that South West offer, so that the area is recognised worldwide as an excellent opportunity for trade and investment.
Critical to developing our economy is improving our connectivity, both within Cornwall and with the rest of world.
That’s why Connecting Cornwall is also one of our Priorities.
Having recently completed the dualling of one notorious 2.8 mile section of the A30, our focus switches to the 8.7 mile section of single carriageway between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross.
An important milestone was achieved at the beginning of the month with confirmation of the preferred route for the dualling of this stretch, heralding the start of the detailed design and consent process with work hopefully starting on the £200m project in 2020.
Our pledge to improve Cornwall’s connectivity extends beyond roads and includes continued enhancements of our rail, air and bus networks; with the aim of creating an integrated public integrated transport system over the next two years.
In part this has been made possible by the Devolution Deal signed in 2015 which, two years on, is clearly starting to demonstrate the benefit of Cornwall being given greater autonomy from the Government.
With delivery accelerating on first Devolution Deal, Cornwall is well placed to push for more powers and that is precisely why it is part of our Democratic Cornwall priority.
And that’s why I hope members will support the recommendation of Constitution and Governance Committee later in the agenda to form a new strategic Leadership Board for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. This is a key element of our governance review, which itself was triggered by the Government stating in the Deal that maintaining the status quo would be an impediment to further devolution.
Devolution both to Cornwall and within Cornwall illustrate the brave and bold steps the Council must continue to make. Bidding to become the UK’s first Spaceport and a global leader in renewable energy are two other examples of the level of ambition that we need to strive for and achieve.
And we need to move with pace; the reduction of the Government grant to the Council from £404m in 2010 to £57m by 2020, coupled with the premature loss of EU funding, requires even more urgency to generate growth and create additional income to compensate for this deficit.
The good news is that, having recently attended the Local Government Association Conference, it is apparent that Cornwall is better placed than most to achieve this goal.
We are blessed with a committed and skilled workforce, led by a first class Chief Executive and senior management team, with committed partners, who have already helped the Council achieve great things and laid the foundations for greater success.
But I close this State of Cornwall speech where I began, by reiterating the need for this Chamber to work together and put the future of Cornwall first.