Leader's blog

16 March 2017

In my view the last couple of years have seen the world has  become a more uncertain place, with an increasing number of people appearing to have lost trust in public institutions.  Many feel we need a root and branch re-think of the way we engage with our communities. History has taught us that ‘rebooting’ society is never an easy task, and often it is the extremes in society that seek to capture the hearts and minds of those that feel most disaffected. Looking back on 2016 and the way that the media has reported the various challenges that we now face, one could be forgiven for being pessimistic about the year ahead.

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I do not share this view.

Over the past twelve months I have seen organisations from the public, voluntary and private sectors in Cornwall work more closely together than ever before.  I have witnessed leaders come together to challenge messages of hate and division, delivering strong and unified leadership that has provided certainty in these uncertain times. I have seen Cornwall and its people at their very best.

Cornwall Council has also begun a journey to change the way we govern, manage and deliver services to our residents, and in the long-term this will make us more resilient. These changes are happening because we signed the Cornwall Devolution Deal in July 2015. At its heart, the Deal is about bringing decision making closer to the people, allowing them more say and influence over the way that services are run that affect them most. It is also about different public organisations working closely together, delivering the most cost effective and responsive services. 

Our Deal has ambitious goals – creating an integrated and improved public transport system and producing more of the energy we need locally, making better use of buildings owned by public sector organisations and joining together our health and social care systems.

Taken together, these initiatives will deliver thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new affordable homes for local people, improve skills and training and ensure that high quality health and social care services are available for those that need them most.

We have made excellent progress over the past year, delivering over 250 new homes, supporting nearly 200 businesses, setting the foundations for two new energy sectors and delivering over 4,000 skills and apprenticeship programmes.

Perhaps just as importantly, our Deal has provided a ‘binding force’ which has encouraged different organisations to come together under the banner of devolution, with many local town and parish councils taking on devolved services from Cornwall Council. I believe this is because we all, whatever our background, have a shared passion for the Duchy and its people that transcends organisational boundaries, and devolution provides a framework for closer working that I believe will strengthen in the coming year.

I remain committed to building on what we have achieved and seeking further devolution from Government this year so we can accelerate the delivery of affordable housing and really get to grips with tackling fuel poverty – and we’ve already made a great start by being selected by the Government as one of the sites for a new garden village. I firmly believe that 2017 will be a year when our residents will start to see with their own eyes what devolution is delivering for Cornwall.

While I may be a Cornwall Councillor, I am also a proud Cornishman and devolution belongs to us all, irrespective of which organisation we may or may not belong to. We do live in uncertain times, but devolution offers us the chance to shape the way we deliver services into the future. Perhaps more importantly, it will allow us over time to develop a society where no one is left behind, opportunity is available to one and all, and equality becomes an embedded ethos that permeates everything we do.

This may sound idealistic, but as leaders in Conrwall we have a responsibility to deliver on these aspirations, and devolution is the vehicle through which we can start to effect this change. This is why I remain optimisitc.

14 March 2017

‘Last week Cornwall’s new Environmental Growth Strategy took centre stage at a conference organised by the Council and the Council and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership.  The Strategy – the first of its kind in the country - puts the needs of our wonderful Cornish environment, countryside and natural beauty at the heart of future planning.                        

This is a great example of the Council working with partners to protect Cornwall’s special attributes by putting them at the forefront of our policy making. Despite the significant challenges of ever changing Government agendas, council restructures and the need to save millions of pounds because of cuts in our funding at the same time as trying to protect services over the past four years, I am very proud to have led an administration which has worked with partners to put the needs of Cornwall above party politics. 

So how have we achieved this?

I believe that being an Independent Leader has allowed me to raise issues above the maelstrom of party politics and forge real collaboration between partners and stakeholders. This has enabled us to develop a single voice for Cornwall.

We have set out a clear vision for the Council and for Cornwall though our Strategy and Business Plan and have changed the way we work to deliver this. We have taken advantage of opportunities such as Devolution which has put Cornwall in a very special and distinct group of Councils which have successfully negotiated a Devolution Deal. This has helped raise our profile in London and among other councils across the country. 

At the same time we have focused on meeting the needs of local residents. Last year we delivered 725 new affordable homes and we are now working with partners to build new homes on our own land, many of which will be available for local people to rent or buy.

We are investing £13m in adult social care services in Cornwall this year and are working with partners to develop the Cornwall Offer. This ambitious new plan will transform adult social care over the next 10 years by reshaping services to help more people stay in their own homes or in their local community. We have also been working hard to support children and young people, which has seen our children’s social care service progress from an ‘Inadequate’ judgement by Ofsted in 2009 to ‘Good’ in 2016. We are now in the top 25% of the best children’s services in the country. 

We have also agreed the Cornwall Local Plan which will help protect our Duchy by being clear how and where development will take place and address concerns about the so called “ developers charter”. I know some people still have concerns over the total number of new homes but this Plan helps give us greater control over where they will be built.

While we have achieved a lot over the past four years, we know there is still more to do.  One area we clearly need to do better is communication.  We need to do more to explain what we are doing, and to involve members of the public in shaping our policies and decisions. This means listening to what people and communities are saying.  We are committed to achieving this and are putting in place measures to improve the way we engage and communicate.

I would like to end this – my last column as the Leader of this administration - by thanking my Cabinet colleagues, our support Team, officers and Members for their support over the last four years .

Being the Leader of the Council has been an exciting opportunity which I have greatly enjoyed.  I believe that this Administration leaves Cornwall more stable and financially sound with a level of services that other authorities have failed to achieve.  I said when I was elected as the Leader I was determined to build - not to cut and destroy - and I am proud that, despite the challenges we have faced, Cornwall is well placed as it approaches an equally uncertain future.’