Friday, 4 November 2011

Cornwall Council

Turning around failing organisations always takes time but I have watched the progress made at Cornwall Council over the past two years with interest. Much of the constituency case work that an MP receives relates directly to the work of the local authority. From highways and parking issues, to housing, anti- social behaviour, planning and school transport. There are many challenges that people face in their daily lives which need an effective response from Cornwall Council and, as an MP, you get to know where weaknesses exist and where improvements are taking place.

It is always easy to criticise and highlight those areas where improvements are still needed but I also think it very important to give credit where credit is due and to recognise the improvements that have been made. I think that Alec Robertson has grown into the job as Council Leader and that, bit by bit, the problems that have plagued Cornwall for years are being sorted out.

Three years ago, Cornwall Council was rated by the Audit Commission as one of the worst performing councils in the country, right down in the bottom 4 percent. But this year it was shortlisted for an award as the most improved Council of the year.

Three years ago, spending by Cornwall Council was out of control with debts rising and council tax going up. Now, the finances are back under control and council tax has been frozen this year and will be frozen again next year to help hard pressed households.

And who can forget how Cornwall was turned into a national laughing stock three years ago over the mismanagement which led to Newquay Airport being forced to close? But this year, Newquay Airport has been designated an Enterprise Zone with the potential to create hundreds of new, high paid jobs in the aerospace industry.

Finally, there has been solid progress improving services like adult social care and child protection. This year, the adult social care budget was protected and next year it will be increased. There have also been important personnel changes which mean that Cornwall’s social services are starting to raise their game.

The early action to sort out Cornwall Council's finances means that Alec Robertson has been able to bring forward other creative policy ideas including a new bursary fund to help Cornish students study for their degree and a new top up to the government's Learner Support Fund to help those in further education with costs like transport and text books.

I don’t pretend that everything is perfect. There is still a lot more to do, but Cornwall Council has made good progress over the last two years and we should give credit where credit is due.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.