Sunday, 4 October 2015

Central government is to blame

In June, I was one of the speakers at a Conference about the future governance of Cornwall, organised by the Cornish Constitutional Convention. Also present was Conservative MP George Eustice, and it is fair to say that we did not agree on very much.

A good friend of mine addressed the Conference from the floor of the event. With a great deal of sarcasm, he “congratulated” Mr Eustice on how his somewhat “non-stick” Government had reduced funding for local government, but had taken little of the blame for the resultant problems, or the drops in local service provision.

My friend was spot on. From 2010 onwards, the Conservative-led Coalition slashed millions from local councils and put intolerable pressure on local administrations to provide services in a “different” manner. By this, they basically meant the privatisation or out-sourcing of services.

Indeed, local authorities are being pressured to become little more than “commissioning” authorities.

I have always objected to this approach to local government, which I will do my utmost to oppose.

The consequence of such government cuts is that there is growing criticism of County Hall – whether it relates to how the Council is dealing with toilets, leisure centres, the maintenance of play areas, the failed BT contract … the list goes on.

And every week, it is Cornwall Council that gets the blame from local residents – not central government, which reduced the funding and caused the problems in the first place.

But local politicians are also proving to be their own worst enemies. Instead of working together to construct a convincing “narrative” about the funding cuts and building a strong movement to oppose the approach of central government, they seem more interested in gaining some illusory short-term political advantage.

Take the example of public conveniences. Local Conservatives are presently being very critical of the approach of the Independent / Liberal Democrat administration on the unitary authority. But when the Conservatives were in charge at County Hall, their approach was very similar – when it was condemned by the Lib Dems.

In such local “narratives,” it would seem that central government cuts do not feature at all!

This is not an isolated example and such short-termism does no-one in Cornwall any favours. Surely now is the time for all of Cornwall’s local politicians to stop playing political games and to consistently demand fair funding for Cornwall’s public services.

[This was my article in last week's Cornish Guardian].

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