When Cornwall Councillors voted to double the Council Tax on second homes from April 2024, raising an estimated £25 million per year, Olly Monk (the Cabinet Member for Housing) said he didn’t want to ring-fence this cash for affordable housing, claiming there was already plenty of money in the system to build on all the available land. Andy Virr (the Cabinet member for Adult Social Care) also opposed ring-fencing this money for housing, saying that it was needed for Adult Social Care.
A few weeks later, Cllr Virr rejected my calls for care workers to be paid £13 per hour, saying that such a wage was unaffordable. So I was shocked to hear him say last week that the Health and Care System in Cornwall already has “plenty of money”!
Last Tuesday, I attended a Scrutiny Committee meeting to hear a report on the state of Cornwall’s 10,500 Council Houses. The Committee was told that virtually all of these properties need major works to enable them to be heated in an affordable and sustainable way, and many really need to be demolished and rebuilt. But when I asked whether the £25 million annual revenue from the double council tax on second homes could be used for this purpose (which would not require any new land), Cllr Monk once again said that he didn’t want the money, as he didn’t think he’d be able to find enough people to do the work.
This failure of Leadership from our Conservative Cabinet is totally unacceptable:
A lack of available workers today should not be used as an excuse to turn down money when it becomes available, or to fail to fight for the extra funding Cornwall deserves. Of course it’s true that money is no use if there aren’t enough workers, but it should be perfectly obvious that the reason for the lack of workers is the chronic lack of funding! At the last elections, Conservative Councillors and MPs promised to secure better funding from our Conservative Government, but all we ever get is short-term “initiatives” and emergency “sticking plasters”. This is an incredibly wasteful way to spend taxpayers’ money and it does nothing to increase the size of the workforce.
Cornwall needs strong leaders in Parliament and on the Council who will develop long-term plans in areas such as social care, affordable housing, insulation, renewable energy and transport, and then fight for the sustained long-term funding needed to turn these plans into reality, including recruiting and training the thousands of people needed to carry out the work. If our current Conservative representatives are unable (or unwilling) to do this, they should step aside or call elections so that we can replace them with Liberal Democrats who will.