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Cornwall seeks savings through parish council devolution plans

Cornwall Council has proposed to devolve at least £34m of services to town and parish councils in its proposals to save £196m over the next four years. 

The council says the unprecedented scale of the savings required means that all areas of the local authority are affected by the draft proposals. 

However, the authority said that some priority services had been spared the worst of the cuts – services for the most vulnerable; public transport and road repairs and maintenance. 

Alex Folkes, cabinet member for finance, said a recent review had “identified more than £30m of savings through a radical restructure of senior management, reducing the use of consultants and agency staff by 59%, and a local pay agreement with staff”. 

The draft budget proposals are based around four key areas working with staff to reduce the pay bill – including further restructuring and the transfer of staff to new models of delivery and arm’s length companies; new models of delivery – including integrating health and social care services; devolving further services to town and parish councils and community and voluntary groups (eg libraries ); and creating trusts and partnerships to deliver services such as culture and tourism, and seeking external partners for services such as parking. 

Cllr John Pollard, the Independent leader of Cornwall Council, which is run by a coalition of independent and Lib Dem councillors, said: “We are determined to focus on what Cornwall will be like in 2019, rather than what we need to cut. 

“Budgetary constraints and the changing nature of local government require a different approach and, as we said last year, we want to build a resilient and sustainable Cornwall and not simply reduce the services we provide. 

“To this end we have worked with councillors, officers and partners to develop this budget, the council’s strategy which underpins it, and a business plan that will implement it.” 

The council now wants to hear the views of people in Cornwall on the proposals through a public consultation, which will run until 29 October.  The local authority will also be holding 20 public meetings during October so people can give their views on the proposals and any new ideas. 

Recently, Bucks County Council (BCC) proposed to give parish councils greater powers as part of a new ‘clusters’ initiative

The parish council clusters – of between five and 20 authorities – would manage services in each parish, rather than through the county council. As well as taking control of services, BCC has set aside a budget of £900,000 in scope for 2015-16 for the services, and £700,000 in the following three years – with each town and parish council receiving a budget from this money each year. 

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