In a few weeks, it will be polling day on Thursday, May 6th when people right across Cornwall will be able to exercise their democratic right to elect their local representatives to Cornwall Council. Last year elections had to be delayed in parts of the country due to the Coronavirus but the progress made on vaccination means we can now allow elections to take place as we emerge from the pandemic. Here in Cornwall, there has been a Lib Dem led coalition that has been running the council for the last four years, and the May 6th elections are an important opportunity to hold them to account.
The last 12 months have certainly been difficult for many people and the support offered by local government organisations has been vital to many individuals and businesses alike all over the county. Recognising that different areas had different challenges, one of the things the government did was give local councils a discretionary grant fund which they were free to distribute to local businesses in a way that suited their locality. Some councils in other parts of the country gave a larger number of awards in smaller grants to ensure that the money they had gone as far as possible and really targeted support to those who had fallen between other schemes and therefore needed it most.
Cornwall Council chose not to exercise the discretion they had been given nor to be creative about the design of the support they gave. Instead, they just doled out the money along the formula is was allocated to them and then said they wanted more. The result of this is that many businesses received £10,000 when they did not really require it, and some are now actually better off through being closed than open and trading. It also meant that some businesses that needed support received nothing at all. Had the Lib Dem/Independent administration used their discretion and exercised judgement then more businesses would have been able to benefit from this Government funding.
We desperately need an administration in County Hall that has the courage to exercise judgement and to make decisions even though they might sometimes involve difficult choices. In recent years Cornwall has suffered by having a Lib Dem administration that calls for more decision making power but lacks the courage to take decisions. They have been too preoccupied with their latest press release, or their latest leaflet to actually think about their responsibilities as an elected administration.
In addition, this year the Lib Dem’s will be increasing Council Tax by almost 5% with some households seeing their bills go up by around 7-8%. This would be particularly concerning in normal times and I have opposed these rises in the past. However, we are currently living through one of the most substantial economic downturns since the Second World War with many businesses being forced to close and many people losing their jobs.
This is why the forthcoming elections are so important. It is a vital opportunity for residents to make clear that they are unsatisfied with the council's performance and that the rise in council tax is unacceptable, particularly while Cornwall Council is spending £80,000 a year on rent an office in Brussels despite Cornwall overwhelmingly voting to leave the EU.
Over the next few weeks, the Conservatives will be fielding candidates in every ward in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and I invite you to contact them to discuss any concerns that you might have or to discuss their plans for your area.