Villages demand turbine cash be used for services
CORNWALL Council is being urged to use capital funding of £35 million set aside for wind turbines and housing to pay for frontline services instead.
The Mining Villages Community Network, which represents Carharrack, Gwennap, Lanner, Portreath, St Day and Stithians, is calling for vital services not to be cut and a moratorium on any new capital expenditure for the coming financial year.
In a letter to Cornwall Council Cabinet member for finance Alex Folkes, the group criticised the authority's plan to cut £23.9 million from its services budget in 2014-15.
It stated: "No cuts should be made whatsoever.
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"A cut of just 5 per cent of capital expenditure could cover the anticipated funds needed to maintain services.
"Cornwall has lost some excellent people with valuable knowledge and the quality and efficiency of services has notably declined as workloads have increased with delivery in many areas changing from planned or proactive to merely responsive."
The group, chaired by Redruth farmer Ashley Wood, is calling on the unitary authority to help the rural communities which have been hit hardest by the austerity measures.
Headed by its chairman, "Obviously contracts already entered into must be honoured so the dent in the £600 million capital account will be relatively small – but probably large enough to meet the £23.9 million savings needed for the year," its letter declared.
"For example, the existing commitment to spend £16 million on wind turbines would have gone a long way to meeting the needed savings. Another example could have been to halt the £19 million to be paid to housing associations for affordable housing."
Mr Folkes described the group's proposals as "short-sighted", saying it would not be prudent to stop capital investment for a year, given the jobs and skills supported by such work.
Mr Folkes told the West Briton the council was looking at using land on its farm estates and around Newquay Airport to invest in renewable energy. The £16 million set aside would be for solar energy and wind turbine schemes.
"Government money towards renewable energy sources is still very generous," he said. "There is a debate about individual sites, subject to planning, but we have a commitment to reduce our carbon emissions and the council would benefit financially [from feed-in tariffs and renewable obligation certificates] which would mitigate the cuts we need to make."
He confirmed the council had £19 million to spend on housing programmes in partnership with housing associations.
He said capital funding could not be used as revenue expenditure, and delaying the cuts this year would mean further cuts next year, while starving schemes of funds that would help bring in more jobs and affordable homes.
"Asking us to make no cuts is not realistic," he said. "We have a legal obligation to balance the books."