As the new Leader of Cornwall Council, I am delighted to hear the Prime Minister’s levelling up speech resonate so strongly with our plan for Cornwall.
I doubt there has ever been a more pivotal moment for Cornwall and the whole country than right now. Though the pandemic is far from over, thanks to the fortitude of our residents and businesses who have pulled together through the worst of times, we can finally start taking positive steps to build back stronger, greener and fairer. This is our chance to level up for Cornwall. Working with our fantastic local communities, I am determined to create a carbon zero Cornwall where everyone can start well, live well and age well.
This pandemic has had a devastating impact on too many people’s lives and livelihoods. Cornwall’s economy has been amongst the worst affected with almost 70,000 people – 20% of our working age population - relying on the furlough or self-employed income support scheme. Universal credit claimants doubled to almost 50,000 over the twelve months to March 2021. Over the same period, house prices and rental values have both increased by over 15%. The average home now costs £273,153 - almost 14 times our median local earnings of £19,847. With almost 550 households already in temporary accommodation, there are a unique set of circumstances at play in Cornwall that we are determined to fix, so that our residents are not priced out of Cornwall.
I want every child to have the best start in life, full of opportunities for a bright future here in Cornwall. Thousands of children got involved in the G7 Summit earlier this month, from young Cornish reporters in the international media centre through to the Youth 7 Summit in Carbis Bay, an approach Government wants Glasgow to follow for COP26. Our commitment is to be ambitious for each and every one of Cornwall’s children.
No child should have to grow up in poverty. Everyone needs a secure home and a good income to live well. We will turbo-charge Cornwall’s economy with the help of new global investment interest in Cornwall’s fantastic green and digital industries – and of course our globally significant stores of lithium for battery production mentioned in the PM’s speech. As we prepare to deliver Europe’s first horizontal satellite launch next year, the sky is no longer the limit for Cornwall – and I am determined that local residents benefit from these new job opportunities, through support for people of all ages to retrain, learn new skills and realise their ambitions.
Above all, we must take rapid action to end homelessness and ensure that everyone has a secure home. In Cornwall, there is a lot to do. The number of people in temporary and emergency accommodation doubled over the pandemic as the extent of hidden homelessness was revealed. We have acted swiftly since taking office in May, with the first batch of cabins already on site and more arriving in the coming weeks, to provide safe and secure accommodation for families in emergency hostels. As is so often the case when we build our approach around the needs of people rather than rigid services, this will also save us money on the spiralling costs of temporary accommodation and help us keep council tax down.
Building our approach around people is important above all when it comes to ageing well. Cornwall’s compassionate communities have shown just how brilliantly people can help each other to stay well at home over the last year. This goes to the heart of how we can help everyone live well for longer in their community and spend less time in costly care homes - there is no place like home! In Cornwall we have already seen how our extra investment in reablement is helping more people go home after a stay in hospital rather than going into care, which is better for their wellbeing and helps us keep council tax down. We will invest in communities, support people to do more of what they love where they live and help each other thrive.
Throughout the pandemic we have seen just how much can be achieved through working with communities, and with our excellent local partnerships. Cornwall can now add strong political alignment between the Council, our local MPs and Government. As one of the first areas to secure a devolution deal in 2015, in the words of IPPR North ‘six years on, with significant progress made, it is clear that Cornwall has now outgrown its original deal’. As we bounce forward from the pandemic, with the G7 Summit as our springboard, Cornwall is ideally placed to provide a blueprint for new deals with non-metropolitan areas - and I look forward to working with the Government to level up the life chances of every child growing up in Cornwall today.
Cllr Linda Taylor is the leader of Cornwall Council