Cornwall for Change responds to the GREG report

An independent Governance Review External Group (GREG) has been brought in by Cornwall Council to answer “how is governance working in Cornwall today and what should governance should look like in 2021 to help Cornwall achieve its ambitions?”. The process involved interviews with many different groups, including Cornwall for Change (C4C), who are delighted to support both the observations of the GREG and the fundamental changes that are proposed. Their suggestions include a demand for an overarching strategic vision for Cornwall behind which people across all sectors can unite.

Since the formation of C4C, which represents over 70 town and parish councils, the group has repeatedly pleaded for Ethical Governance and a genuine democratically formed vision for Cornwall.
The GREG report found that Cornwall Council needs to “engage partners more intensively and creatively from the outset.” and whilst it recognized that elected Members had a genuine desire to do the very best for Cornwall and its local wards, that there are “deficiencies in working relationships with local communities.” It also “observed deep rooted opinions that the Council does not care about its communities, that it makes decisions in its best interests rather than for the wider good, and perceptions that the Council takes the side of developers over communities.”
In addition to the absence of a commonly held vision, the GREG also noted an urgent need for an evidence-based strategy and practical plans that are made in genuine consultation with communities. The report noted that the consensus is “People feel ‘done to’ rather than ‘with’” and went on to insist that a change of culture is needed, as well as a change of strategy.

“We are relieved that the GREG has so strongly declared the obvious signs of weakness in Cornwall Council that have so damaged public trust.” says Orlando Kimber, a spokesman for C4C.“ We all believe that great improvements can be made if the Council were to stand up for the people of Cornwall as a whole, rather than bow to pressure from Westminster; particularly in regard to the strong-arm tactics that support large scale property development and minimal investment into infrastructure. We can achieve this if we work together, but the Council must begin by listening to those town and parish councils who themselves are truly involved with their constituents. This is not an impossible task and we are here to help the Council make these much-needed changes efficiently.”

The report goes on to note that the Community Network Panels, that are supposed to connect Cornwall Council with the concerns of Town and Parish Councils, are not satisfactory. Furthermore, the leader of the Council, John Pollard, himself asked for “more robust scrutiny of systems.” Finally, the GREG concluded that Cornwall does not need a mayor “but a strong leader in the cabinet” who would develop an honest and credible vision, strategy and plans.
Jacqui McKinlay, Chair of GREG added: “It’s a sign of maturity that a council is prepared to invite four genuinely independent-minded people in and to let us loose asking all interested parties to come forward and share their views. Our report will, I’m sure, reinforce many things that are widely known, even if some of our messages may be difficult to hear.”

Please note that all quotes, other than those from Orlando Kimber and Jacqui McKinlay, are from the GREG report. Cornwall for Change cornwallforchange.org is a wholly independent body with a steering group comprising of voluntary contributions from parish councillors.