The Cornwall for Change group recently attended the The Examination in Public of Cornwall’s Local Plan, and became rather uneasy with what they saw and heard.
The group’s report is reproduced below:
Cornwall for Change (C4C) represents the interests of over 70 town and parish councils who represent the ordinary people of Cornwall. Many councillors have expressed strong concern over the governance of Cornwall and the strain on public infrastructure, where 25% of households are on the edge of poverty.
In order for us to ‘help us help ourselves’, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were due to receive £458m from the European Commission during the period 2014-2020. No money has yet come to Cornwall, although it has already been transferred from Brussels and is held by DCLG.
“This is an appeal for the citizens of Cornwall to be treated fairly by central Government.” Says a spokesman for C4C “The ball and chain of the estimated £1.2bn debt in Cornwall Council is clearly unsustainable and must be reduced as a matter of urgency. The payment interests of £58m per annum have a direct impact on public services as well as the Council’s decision to promote house-building and thus population growth. We feel that it is impractical and ethically wrong for a grant to be invested in schemes that have no solid commercial return, whilst Cornwall Council carries a debt of £826m in 2015 (up from £500m six years earlier). The EU money should used to reduce the debt and thus the interest payments. If we don’t act now, the monies due to us will become another pawn in the national negotiations with the EU, which naturally include many other issues.”
The fact that Cornwall was paying the price for a lack of Government support was reported as long ago as 2001 by Sunday Times journalist Kevin Cahill in ‘The Killing of Cornwall’ (Business Age magazine).
According to the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), the South-East of England receives £5426 per capita from Government on public infrastructure costs, compared to just £474 in the South-West. That’s a ratio of 11:1.
In their 2015 report, the Federation of Small Business (FSB) tell us that the ratio on business infrastructure costs is 142:1 (South East : South West).
Cornwall Council have announced that they must make a reduction of £200m costs between 2016 and 2020.
An email to C4C in March 2015 from Cornwall Council’s assistant head of finance state a total debt of £826 million in January 2015, comprising of £633 million long term and £193 million short term debt. This is up from £500m in 2009. In addition, the Council reported a pension fund deficit – the difference between what will be needed and what is actually available – was £369m. That’s a grand sum of £1.195 billion…and rising.
In the same email, the interest on Cornwall’s ‘finance budget’ was reported to be £58 million per annum and a further £60 million per annum for capital repayment. A total of £118 million per annum.
C4C group’s report ends.