Cornwall Council Budget Scrutiny – Day 3
Environment and Economy OSC was at the crease for day 3 of the 5 day scrutiny process. This was likely to be lively due to the number of items that were proposed for cuts.(Click here for the Agenda) The big one for me and many other Councillors was the removal of the evening and Saturday bus services along 27 routes (click here to refresh yourself on those routes). This would have a devastating impact on those areas that would suddenly post 6-7pm find they have no bus service.
The cutting of these routes was for me one of those red-line areas that I could not support and along with others had campaigned behind the scenes to stop this cut. This service cut would have a massive impact on those who I serve. At the end of the day we as Cornwall Councillors do have a strategic role to play for the whole of Cornwall, but you must never forget who elects you to that position and how you must first and foremost defend their interests. That is sometimes a hard juggling act to do without dropping the ball once or twice.
So today I was ready for the fight to protect these to routes with a series of questions and arguments to save them. Before I did get the chance to speak, the Portfolio Holder, Graeme Hicks, handed out another proposal. On this proposal it removed the cutting of these routes by ‘adjusting’ some other figures. The room was silenced. A Member said to Graeme “you certainly pulled that one out of the hat”. Indeed he had, and it is a credit to him that he did rethink his original plan.
I do think that this plan was changed because of the pressure and campaigning behind the scenes (and quite openly) by me and many other back-bench Councillors that this area was a step too far and could not go ahead. Many times people have complained (myself included) that it’s hard to change decisions by Cabinet. Today was a victory for back-bench Councillors applying pressure to the Cabinet Member for a change. Credit again should go to the Cabinet Member for listening and getting his officers to come up with a revised plan that keeps the bus routes.
Other points that were clarified today is there would be no cutting of the budget for lifeguard cover at Cornwall’s beaches. The park and ride in Truro would rise in price from £1.20 to £1.50. It was feared that this could rise to over £2, but the officers said this was not the case. Also not all recycling banks would be removed, buy only those that are not cost effective or are close to larger sites. In the report it said they would be all removed.
A note of caution, this was not a final decision on keeping the routes or the other matters. As they still has to go though the final Cabinet recommendations (which they would be now mad to change) It is then for full Council to vote yes or no on this budget. I do think if these issues stay out from being cut, then a few more Councillors might now put up their hand to support the budget. I guess for that we will have to wait till the 30th of November to see.