Cornwall Council's Chief Executive today gave councillors a review of the first year of the new authority - albeit after 8 months rather than the full year.
Overall, I thought the presentation he gave was a fair one. He explained where the council had been judged to be failing - on adult care, children's safeguarding, fire and rescue and housing - and explained what the Council had done to address the problems. On all except housing, he said the Council had taken the judgement on the chin and vowed to improve. On housing, he compared Cornwall with a London council and said that it beggared belief that we were red flagged when all our statistics were better.
On finances, Mr Lavery made it clear that the Council inherited a strong financial position from the County Council. The recession and future Government cuts have, and will continue to, eat into this. But at least we started off from a sound base.
Mr Lavery addressed the issue of staff morale - recognising that this was a concern.
Crucially, he made it clear that there would have to be priorities for the Council. When we first started, I got the impression that he viewed everything as a priority and I challenged him on this. Now he is clear that the budget pressures and time pressures mean that we cannot excel in every single area. I challenged him again to ensure that the areas that we focus on must be those which are most important for the people of Cornwall. Usually, these will coincide with the audit marks we receive - nobody would suggest that we do not want to have a good child safeguarding system, for example. But there are occasions when we fall into the trap of concentrating on the boxes that the Government wants ticked and not on what really matters.
A number of members also raised the issue of the way that councillors are treated. I have raised concerns about the slow replies to correspondence and a new super-cautious view on how the Council communicates with members could also lead to breakdown. I know that one senior officer is looking into this area. Councillor morale is not the most important measure but is important if we are to really deliver a member led authority.
And finally, Mr Lavery quashed rumours that he was only going to be here for a short period. He made it clear that he had moved his family here and, perhaps in the manner of Mrs T, he will go on and on and on.