By Julia Penhaligon
The first shots in next May’s Cornwall Council elections were fired this morning when councillors spent more than an hour debating County Hall’s “manifesto” for the next 30 years – a document called “The Cornwall We Want” was approved by 72 votes to 28, with 17 abstentions.
The debate saw most Liberal Democrat, Labour, Mebyon Kernow and Independent councillors in favour of the document, with most Conservatives and some Independents against.
One of the more contentious aspects of the documents is that “customer feedback” from members of the public expresses a clear anti-tourism sentiment, calling for policies which would make Cornwall less reliant on its visitor economy and for action to mitigate the social and environmental costs of tourism.
The “listening exercise” also built on public attitudes to Covid-19, with much of the feedback welcoming aspects of the lockdown in March, April, May and June and rejecting a return to the pre-Covid lifestyle.
But some councillors questioned the academic rigour of the public consultation exercise, claiming that the answers might have been influenced by the way the questions were asked.
Council leader Julian German said it had been the biggest public consultation ever, and he welcomed the commitment to increased diversity and local decision-making.
Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole said the document was “full of good intentions” while Labour’s Jayne Kirkham welcomed its commitments on climate change.
“It’s pretty broad-brush,” she said. "It’s hard to disagree with what’s in most of it.”
But Conservative group leader Linda Taylor criticised the political role played by council officials in drawing up the document. “No political stone has been left unturned,” she said. “It is a menagerie of data; the lifecycle of a political manifesto, except that nobody gets elected.
“No-one is against green energy, motherhood or apple pie.”
The Cornwall We Want now provides a template for council officials to interpret policy – at least, for six months.