Cutting through the Conservative smokescreen

Despite all the hype, Theresa May’s government is just not taking any notice of Cornwall, and we are getting a poor deal compared to the rest of the country.

We know you are unlikely to support us in the General Election, but please take a moment to hear us out.

Cornwall has 6 Conservative MP’s who seem to be failing to represent Cornwall effectively, the most recent example being the Growth Deal funding failure.

And for whatever reason the Conservative councillors seem in disarray, with many changing their colours to “independent” for this election because they are worried about saying they are Conservative, another exposed this week over supporting the English Defence League, and inexperienced and uninterested “paper” candidates put up for key areas to which they have no connection whatsoever.

Despite the wild claims made by one or two Conservative councillors, the Lib Dem record in Cornwall has been of prudent safe financial management, with funding solutions found to keep libraries open, toilets open, roads repaired, social care functioning, and leisure centres open with an annual saving of £3.5m compared to the last Conservative administrations flawed scheme which saw little or no investment in the pools.  

We have also saved the tax payer £1.67m on the cost of running the airport, and the “passenger tax” has been scrapped, leading to more airlines returning to the airport and opening up routes new destinations.

We have ensured that the Business Rate money stays in Cornwall, and that the money from any sale of public buildings doesn’t go straight to Westminster, but is used for local services instead.

We have already identified £34m of savings in the 17/18 budget, with more to come, while still maintaining services. Since 2013 we have saved £167 million. The net debt has also been reduced by a massive 25% of the total, down £120 million. £8 million of the £12 million consultants’ bill has also been slashed.

But it isn’t all cuts: for 17/18 we have a cash increase to social care of £11m, council staff are now being paid the minimum recommended by the Living Wage Foundation, helping in a small way to change Cornwall being the 2nd lowest pay area in the country. And we have been able to invest over £700 million in capital projects that bring additional investment, jobs, services, and long term gains to Cornwall.

Through our efforts Cornwall now produces 32% of its electricity from renewable energies, and we have provided £10 million in community benefit contributions, funding things like park improvements.


Central cuts

And all of this against a backdrop of 71% cut in central government funding, and with only small Council Tax rises.

Many people don’t realise that Cornwall receives well below the average of central government funding per head, so here’s the figures:

-          England average per head:              £331.51

-          London:                                            £510.55

-          Other cities:                                      £407.90

-          Cornwall:                                          £307.40

We know Conservatives portray themselves as the party of prudent safe financial management, and that may be true elsewhere (although we would argue not) , but the reality is that in Cornwall it is the Lib Dems delivering financial efficiency.


Conservatives vote against economic development

So what have the Cornwall councillors been up to? What we think are power plays within the Conservative group led recently to an attempt to block the budget with an amendment that would have seen Cornwall’s economic development plans jeopardised.

Had they been successful this would have directly affected schemes that are helping Cornwall be more than a low-pay holiday and retirement destination, for example:

-          Liskeard cattle market development

-          St Austell Market House

-          Workspace in Penzance (the Place Shaping project)

-          Agri-food hub in Bodmin

-          An Innovation centre in East Cornwall (£11m economic boost alone)

-          Newquay Aerohub / Spaceport development

-          Strategic transport links (e.g. A30 Chiverton to Carland Cross and St Austell Link Road)


City of Culture bid – £170,000, not £500,000

“But what about the wasteful City of Culture bid for Truro?” we hear people ask.

The fact is that the £500,000 figure is grossly over stated and incorrect, and this has been accepted by the Conservative group, although some still use the figure to try to claim we can’t manage finances. So here are the facts:

-          The current “cost” to the council tax payer is less than £170,000 and reducing as more partners come on board.

-          The Council has underwritten £336,000 (not spent  £500,000), which is mainly to put on events in Cornwall in the summer and autumn for people to enjoy (Man Engine perhaps).

-          So far HALF of this £336,000 has been raised from partners and businesses, so the underwrite is currently less than £170,000.

-          As a direct result of the bid, Cornwall will get £500,000 from the Arts Council over the next 3 years which will help investment in our important creative industries.

-          The idea was proposed by the Secretary of State with the promise of £100k of central funds to help the bid, and championed by an Independent councillor, so in fact it was a Conservative idea.

-          It has nothing to do with the EU – it is the Council of Europe – a very different institution.

-          A UK town will win, it is the UK’s turn, so why not a Cornish town rather than Leeds, Milton Keynes or Dundee?

-          Such bids are proven, even as bids, to generate more than is spent on them for local economies and if successful the positive impact for Cornwall will be significant.

One or two Conservative councillors seem hell bent on rubbishing Cornwall and our creative industries to score political points. This approach is simply not in Cornwall’s best interests.

So what next?

So where does that leave us? (and thanks for reading)

Simply, we are asking you to put Cornwall’s needs first, for proven prudent financial management, from a team with a good track record, and are asking you for this election to vote Lib Dem.

Whether in favour or against Brexit, Cornwall is a special place with unique needs: unfortunately we are ignored by central government, and the local “conservative” councillors just aren’t up to the job. We have more cuts coming.

We appreciate you will vote Conservative in a General Election, but in this Council Election will you trust us, now you know the facts, to continue?

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