Cornwall Council castigated for £75,000 tourism report

21 November 2017 4 min. read

A report delivered by consultants to Cornwall Council has been described as “a huge waste of money” by councillors. The document, which was supposed to recommend methods for the region to make up for lost EU subsidies, was said by detractors to lean heavily on regional stereotypes such as pasties and Poldark, despite having been written following a lengthy period of consultation.

Cornwall Council has been scolded by elected representatives for wasting tax payers' money, after the local authority and the unelected Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) partnered to spend the cash to engage the Lancashire-based consulting firm.

Following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, Cornwall has been undergoing a period of preparation. The county stands to lose £60 million in subsidies from the EU, but has been exploring methods to alleviate this loss of funding by attracting national and international investment.

Recently, this saw a team of consultants from Lancashire paid £75,000 by Cornwall Council , which is led by a Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition, to come up with a 'strategic narrative' for Cornwall, which hosts a number of the nation’s most iconic historic and cultural destinations, including the outdoor Minack Theatre, Land’s End and Tintagel – the supposed birthplace of the legendary King Arthur. The consultants from Thinkingplace spent the Summer of 2017 speaking to people from sectors across Cornwall, only to conclude that Cornwall should promote "a sense of place" by emphasising the region’s relationship with the environment, tourism and food and drink.

Cornwall Council castigated for £75,000 tourism report

The findings, which were presented to a group made up of representatives from the council, business, the NHS, and the police, left a number of citizens and councillors deeply dissatisfied, with many accusing its findings of being a derivative waste of money. Local news reporters Cornwall Live even went as far as to mock the report for essentially boiling down to popular TV show ‘Poldark’ and pasties.

Also among the findings of the report were terms such as 'dynamic entities', 'inclusive growth', 'exploit the brand' and 'thinking bigger and wider', which served to only further provoke residents and representatives, with one councillor branding it, “the worst PR and consultancy guff imaginable.”

Consulting and councils

Labour councillor Tim Dwelly went on to elaborate, "We need businesses to locate and relocate to Cornwall and create jobs - not be told to concentrate on tourism and food. We can't base our future on people visiting us and spending their money while on holidays. We need to generate money and jobs all year round.”

Consulting firms have been seen to make a big impact for council budgets in the past. Recently, digital advisory services from Capita aided the District Council of Vale of White Horse to collect an extra £7.4 million in council tax in 2016, while South Oxfordshire collected a £6.8 million windfall over the same period. In addition, where council tax was overdue, the use of enhanced digital initiatives together with persistent enforcement action resulted in £1.6 million in arrears being collected. Unfortunately, the benefits of consultancies for local authorities are not always so clear-cut.

Indeed, Cornwall are not the only local authority to have come under fire for their use of consultancies. Recently the £1.2 million consulting bill accumulated by St Albans City and District Council was panned by critics, with Liberal Democrat councillors calling for the Conservative-led institution to re-evaluate its priorities. The national government has also come under fire for the expenses incurred in hiring external expertise to deal with Brexit, following a £1.9 million contract being handed to McKinsey earlier this year.