The deputy leader of Cornwall Council has hit back at North Cornwall MP Scott Mann after he criticised the authority in the House of Commons.
Adam Paynter said the Conservative MP should “be doing his job to fight for Cornwall and fight for funding for Cornwall” rather than “having a go at Cornwall Council”.
His comments were in response to a statement made by Mr Mann in a question to Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday (October 1).
Earlier this week the council had said that it would be providing £6 million to leisure centre operators so facilities can reopen and that it would be calling on the Government to provide more support.
Conservative Mr Mann said: “In Cornwall, our town and parish councils are struggling financially in the wake of Covid-19 due to their revenues being highly dependent on car parking, and leisure centres are on their knees due to the lack of financial support from Cornwall Council. After months of us asking for it, Cornwall Council has only this week given leisure centres financial support.
“That is despite Cornwall Council being allocated £39 million of un-ringfenced money to spend on local issues such as these. Will the Leader of the House consider holding a general debate on how local authorities have used this un-ringfenced money during the Covid pandemic, and does he agree that public finances should always be open, transparent and accountable?”
Cllr Paynter responded saying: “Rather than having a go at Cornwall Council and the people delivering the services he should be doing his job to fight for Cornwall and fight for funding for Cornwall.”
The Liberal Democrat councillor was also disappointed with the MP’s comments on Covid-19 funding, highlighting that the Government had previously told local councils to spend as much as they needed to and that they would be fully compensated.
He said that the council had had to spend money on everything from a temporary mortuary to personal protective equipment (PPE) and had also experienced losses from a reduction in car park revenue, Tamar Bridge tolls and with Cornwall Airport Newquay.
“All of those costs we know have come to £74m and the Government has given us £39m. Even Scott, not being very bright, must realise that 39 is a smaller number than 74 if he uses his fingers.”
Cllr Paynter then turned to the issue of leisure centres saying: “The Government has bailed out leisure centres in other parts of the country but not in Cornwall. It is very disappointing that the MPs have not pressured the government for funding to help get them open. It is not a level playing field.”
The deputy leader also disputed Mr Mann’s claims about town and parish councils saying that the council had been offering full support to them during the coronavirus crisis.
He said: “If any town and parish council is struggling they just need to speak to us and we have a process in place where we can work with them to make sure that no parish council falls over or gets into financial difficulty. We have put those guarantees in place for our town and parish councils and talk regularly to them.”
Cllr Paynter said the council was also trying to set a budget in difficult circumstances and with no guarantees of the level of funding it might get from the Government this year.
He said the council was being forced to make more cuts including redundancies for 200 posts.
And he said the council was still waiting to see if the Government would provide financial support to cover Covid-19 losses including the £6m the council has had to provide for the leisure services, £5m shortfall at the airport and £2m on the Tamar Bridge.
He said: “We are still having to make savings and cuts despite the government rhetoric about levelling up and the government telling local authorities to spend what they need on Covid-19 and will be compensated – that clearly isn’t happening.
“The Government has just not been truthful about the cuts that all local authorities are having to make. There are no guarantees of funding and we are having to set a four-year budget with no guarantee of funding.
“It would be better if Scott Mann were to hold the government to its promises rather than criticising Cornwall Council.”