Monday, 6 January 2014

Meeting the minister

This morning, a delegation from Cornwall Council went to London to speak to local government minister Brandon Lewis. The meeting had been arranged for us by North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson who also joined us. We were lobbying the government for a fairer funding deal for Cornwall and to speak about some of the projects Cornwall is keen to pursue in partnership with the government.

As has often been said, the current funding arrangement for Cornwall is unfair. Like many rural councils, we get less per head than similarly sized urban authorities. And, whilst some predominantly rural areas have big cities within them, Cornwall is almost unique in being uniformly rural across the entire area.

If Cornwall got a grant equivalent to the average per head grant of an urban council, we would have an extra £48 million per year.

We also explained what we were doing regarding planning for the future. In order to make space to hold a proper debate and review of all our services, we set the budget early this year. This had the benefit of saving extra money and preserving around £7 million of front line services for the chop. One cloud on the horizon is a review by the government of the referendum threshold. If they decide to make a change then Cornwall could have to re-visit our budget decision meaning lost time and money.

Overall it was a constructive meeting and the minister engaged with us to talk about the various issues. It was one of a many such meetings that he will have and we won't know the outcome until later in the month. But I believe we got our points across. Even if we don't succeed this time with the funding argument, we had the chance to talk briefly about our desire to control more of our own destiny as a council. We want to have more decisions concerning Cornwall taken in Cornwall and there is a chance to integrate more of the public services - saving money but also making services more accountable. If we can get the government to agree to this sort of pilot then it would be a real breakthrough. The minister invited us to come back to him with definite proposals as soon as we could.

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