As a maths teacher and a Cornwall Councillor, I love digging into the details of Cornwall’s finances, but the same clearly can't be said of our Conservative councillors and MPs. I'm even starting to wonder, are our representatives simply incapable of fixing our public services, or are they actively trying to make things worse?
First of all, thanks to inflation, it would cost £51 million pounds more for Cornwall Council to provide exactly the same services in the next year as it did in the current year. On top of this, the Council needs to find another £59 million to cover the cost of increased demand for services such as social care, school transport, or temporary emergency accommodation.
In 2021, the Conservatives took control of Cornwall Council after claiming that they would be able to work with Cornwall’s six MPs to get the funding we need from the Conservative Government. Finally, three years later, the Deputy Leader of the Council has written to the Government to ask for a bit more money. Dozens of MPs from across the UK also wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister asking for extra council funding, but this was only signed by one of Cornwall’s six MPs (Derek Thomas from St Ives).
Last week, we got the response. Cornwall will receive just under £6m; a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed.
To make matters worse, the Government announced in December that it was cutting Cornwall’s “service delivery grant” by £3 million! Therefore in order to balance the books, Cornwall Council has been forced to increase Council Tax by 5%, as well as making cuts of £29 million and using up £20m of reserves.
Even after all this, the Council will face a further £74 million shortfall the following year!
And to add insult to injury, there is also a funding shortfall for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities which is predicted to grow from £23m this March to £36m the following year and £98m by 2026. But don’t worry, the Government has provided a £1m grant “to develop interventions in order to bring the High-Needs block back to a balanced position”. So that’s OK then…?
The Conservatives on Cornwall Council, in Parliament and in Government have brought our public services to breaking point. They have no plan to fix the problems they have created. In fact it seems that their long-term strategy is to leave the country in such a mess when they lose power that it will be difficult for the next Government to put things back together again.
If our MPs are incapable of understanding the scale of the crisis, they're not fit to represent us. If they support this “scorched earth” strategy, that's even worse.
Cornwall deserves representatives with both the ability and experience to understand the details and the willingness to fight for a fair deal, and the Liberal Democrats have a track record of doing exactly that.