THE Leader of Cornwall Council, Adam Paynter, has called on all councillors to work together to put the future of Cornwall first and ensure a better future for local residents.
In his first ‘State of Cornwall’ address, Cllr Paynter, who also represents the Liberal Democrats as the Cornwall Councillor for Launceston North and North Petherwin, said that Cornwall needed to be strong and united if it was to conquer the challenges it faced over the next four years.
Cllr Paynter said: “Without doubt the next four years will provide a set of challenges that only a strong and united Cornwall can conquer.
“The scale of those challenges are so great that, irrespective of the make-up of the political administration, there has to be a team approach which transcends national politics in Cornwall’s best interest.
“So what are those fundamental challenges?
“Firstly, it is evident population is growing and is expected to reach 633,000 by 2035; but growth isn’t consistent across Cornwall with the number of people living in popular coastal towns falling – Padstow and St Ives being prime examples where second home ownership is resulting in fewer all year round residents.
“Secondly, population change is having a profound impact on services; one in four of residents will be 65+ by 2019 and by 2025 36% of residents are expected to be living aged 85 and above.
“Thirdly, our settlement pattern presents challenges; 60% of our population live in key settlements of less than 3,000 people. Allied to the changes in age profile this raises profound questions about how we meet the future needs of residents in these isolated communities.
“Fourthly, deprivation remains a persistent concern; Around 69,450 of Cornwall’s population live in the 20% most ‘deprived’ communities in England and 36,000 of households are calculated to be in fuel poverty.
“Finally, and somewhat sobering, despite investment our economy is still underperforming; just taking GVA per capita as an example, in 2015 Cornwall was ranked 37th out of 40 regions — the same ranking as in 1999!
“In my view many of these challenges risk being intensified by the impact of Brexit on Cornwall.
“That is why Cornwall needs to speak with a strong and united voice to ensure that the Brexit settlement supports Cornwall’s economy and doesn’t send it backwards.
“We need to seize the opportunities provided by Brexit and call on the government to adopt the principle of ‘double devolution’ to ensure that powers repatriated from the EU do not stop at Westminster, Stormont, Cardiff Bay and Holyrood – they also get devolved to Cornwall.
“But to do so we need to be viewed by the government as being credible and capable.
“That means making sure every penny of the remaining EU funding is spent wisely and timely – and the dualling of the A30 at Temple and Higher Carblake is a very well-timed and prime example of Cornwall Council doing precisely that.
“We need to continue to show the government that we can deliver transformational projects of that nature to maximise our chances of gaining a share of the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund that is equivalent to the amount of EU funding Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will lose as a result of Brexit.”
Cllr Paynter called for members to stand together in order to put the case to the Government for a fairer funding settlement for Cornwall and said people services are ‘at the forefront’ of the Priorities for Cornwall.
He said ‘the significant issue of our economy’ is the ‘significant gap between income levels and house prices’, adding this ‘will require the council to take even more direct intervention and delivery than witnessed in previous years’.
He added improving connectivitiy is ‘critical to developing our economy’, and said he wanted to ensure Cornwall is ‘Brexit ready’.
He referred to the Devolution Deal, signed in 2015, which, two years on, Cllr Paynter said ‘is clearly starting to demonstrate the benefit of Cornwall being given greater autonomy from the government’.
He added:?“Devolution both to Cornwall and within Cornwall illustrates the brave and bold steps the council must continue to make. Bidding to become the UK’s first spaceport and a global leader in renewable energy are two other examples of the level of ambition that we need to strive for and achieve.
“And we need to move with pace; the reduction of the government grant to the council from £404-million in 2010 to £57-million by 2020, coupled with the premature loss of EU funding, requires even more urgency to generate growth and create additional income to compensate for this deficit.
“The good news is that, having recently attended the Local Government Association Conference, it is apparent that Cornwall is better placed than most to achieve this goal.
“We are blessed with a committed and skilled workforce, led by a first-class chief executive and senior management team, with committed partners, who have already helped the council achieve great things and laid the foundations for greater success.
“But I close this State of Cornwall speech where I began, by reiterating the need for this Chamber to work together and put the future of Cornwall first.”