In North Cornwall, many of 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 pressure by the public, Cornwall Council has finally given leisure centres financial support. That is despite Cornwall Council being allocated £39 million of un-ringfenced tax-payers money to spend on local issues such as these. Public finances should always be open, transparent and accountable, and therefore I asked the Leader of the House of Commons if he would consider holding a general debate on how local authorities have used this un-ringfenced money during the pandemic.
The Government have rightly have given taxpayers’ money un-ringfenced to local authorities, but local councils have a responsibility to their communities to spend it wisely, and MPs have a right to hold them to account for how it is spent and bring it to the House when they feel it is not spent correctly. It was very disappointing, though not unexpected, when I read the reaction from the Lib Dem Council Cabinet Member for Finance, Adam Paynter, who did not treat the issue with the level of seriousness which my constituents expect. I will be writing to the Council Leader, to ask for a full public audit of where and how the £39 million in un-ringfenced tax-payers money was spent. I urge concerned residents to do the same.
People living in North Cornwall can now get up to £5,000 of energy-efficient home improvements funded by the Government as part of a new scheme. The Green Homes Grant will not only enable households to improve their energy efficiency and cut down on bills but help protect the environment and jobs, livelihoods and the local economy by creating more work for local tradespeople. It covers a range of energy-saving measures at home, including insulation for floors and roofs, double or triple-glazing and draught-proofing. Under the terms of the Green Homes Grant, the Government will offer vouchers to cover up to two-thirds of energy-efficient home improvements – worth up to £5,000. The improvements mean families could save £600 a year on bills, and information on how to apply can be found on my website.
Finally, older people have been most adversely affected by Covid-19 and I have heard some of their stories personally. It is also terribly sad to hear that the only visits some elderly people are getting are from nurses in care homes in full PPE. Beating coronavirus once and for all requires a vaccine, and there are several in late stage clinical testing. The UK has access to several of these and I am confident that once the right vaccine is found we will be in a strong position to deploy it across the entire country - but we must act with speed, determination, and strong enough measures needed to slow coronavirus until that time.