Being the lone voice in a Cabinet is sometimes difficult, but when you cannot support an item you need to make sure your voice is heard and standby those views. The case in question is the European Capital of Culture bid (ECoC). My previous post on this issue is HERE.
Prior to today’s meeting, there was enough concern about the original decision by Cabinet. This resulted in the decision being ‘called-in’ by scrutiny who felt the process getting to the Cabinet decision was flawed. As Scrutiny felt there was a ‘flaw’ in the process of the decision – and as per the Constitution – sent the decision back to Cabinet for further consideration, and to consider if it made the right decision in the first place. For those who do not want to read on, the Cabinet voted 8-1 in favour of the bid (I voted against it). For those who want to know why, please read on.
I believe the process of getting to the shortlist phase is flawed for many of the same reasons as Scrutiny. Originally, the amount to get to the shortlist phase, was £536k, but now, on ‘relooking’ at the amount, this is now £336k. However, whilst this money is already in a budget (£60m) of EU match-funding, the costs most people seem to be missing is the estimated £10m that Cornwall Council will need to commit for this bid to work. This is not in the Council’s budget plan, and there is no clear way how this could be funded.
There is one thing of using existing budgets for something, but how do you square it when you really need a lot more for this to work. At today’s Cabinet meeting I commented how projects like the ECoC will find the money. Yet, corporately, money cannot be found for vital services in Cornwall. In reference to my point today, I talked about Post-16 transport funding. Whilst this is a discretionary service of the Council, and it is important to note, the Council receives no support from Government to pay for it; even though they have made it mandatory for young people to stay in education (or training) till 18 years old.
If I had £10m, I could fund Post-16 transport for around eight-years. This is just one case of how money could be spent rather than on this bid. My point is we must fund for the most vulnerable and concentrate on our key services as highlighted in my previous blog.
Much has been made of this is a Cornwall-wide bid and not just Truro. Yet, Truro City Council was not really consulted prior to the bid paperwork going public. Furthermore, the City Council has only supported the ECoC bid by a narrow margin of 9-8. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but a democratic decision nonetheless.
A puzzling question that needs to be answered is how in reality will a Cornwall-wide bid work? Will it just concentrate on the existing sites like Eden and other large tourist attractions? If so, how will those who do not have a site like this near to them feel the ‘benefit’ of the ECOC? If commercial businesses are to benefit, it is a must they have to contribute, rather than the taxpayer footing the bill.
If town and villages are to be involved why haven’t they been asked? Will it be left to the town and parish councils to find funding? A of example on costs is Helston Town Council made a decision not to have the Man Engine due to the costs of this one day event. If it is Cornwall-wide, then serious consideration needs to be made how these town and parish council will fund it, or will it be only the ones with the precepts large enough to contribute?
Another point I made today was on political support for the ECoC. Cabinet is made up of two group/party, Independent and Lib Dem. Yet the Council is made up of eight groups/party/standalone. I made an amendment for this decision to be made by full council as all 123 members can have a say, especially on the commitment of further funding like the £10m. This was not supported, but I am hopeful when there is money assigned, this can be debated via the capital programme which has to come to full council at a later date. A long-winded route to a simple debate on a yes/no option on the bid.
It is should be noted, the bid rule makes it clear any bid needs to be grassroots and supported from there. No reference has been made of this, or asked the public about their views.
In short, I voted against this because the bid is flawed on the timeline needed, monies could be spent on the most vulnerable, and there is not full political support for the ECoC. Not to mention post Brexit, there is little chance of winning the bid. As I said before, I was the lone voice, and the other eight members of Cabinet voted in favour for a bid and the £336k to proceed.