Three years ago David Cameron came to Cornwall and promised central government help and support for the Stadium for Cornwall bid. The build was meant to be fully funded by the private sector and when a £6 million hole opened up, Mr Cameron offered to fill it. Now it seems that promise has been at least 50% reneged upon and Cornwall Council are under pressure to fund something that they never intended to and were promised they would not have to. For all the talk about it coming out of a separate budget, this really does not sit easily when the council are cutting money for health visitors and school nurses, for example. We are due to see the business case before full council gets a vote on 17 April.
Sarah Newton in her column last week talks up the government’s announcement of a plan to train more midwives. A focus on maternity care is not before time as the UK has sunk down the table for infant and maternal mortality in recent years to its current dismal position compared to the rest of Europe. It is safer to give birth in Poland or Belarus than it is here. It therefore seems counter intuitive that the bursary that was given to nurses and midwives to train was removed by the Conservative government last year. They now have to take out loans. It is hard to see how that will encourage more people to train as midwives and nurses when the pay packets for those jobs will never justify the average £50,000 debt a student leaves university with.
It seems ironic that the government are trumpeting a policy to put more money into midwifery at the same time as cutting 20% of the funding for public health nursing. After you have your child, your care is transferred from a midwife to a health visitor. Midwives are funded through the NHS whilst health visitors and public health nursing are funded by local councils. It is hard to see how this cut can mean anything other than fewer health visitors and school nurses who are already down in numbers and desperately stretched in Cornwall. The contract for public health nursing is up for renewal next year. The cut to funding makes it ripe for privatisation to the lowest bidder. This Conservative government is practising its usual sleight of hand by giving with one hand, while taking away with the other.
The Labour Group tried and failed to get a budget amendment through the Council to restore £1 million for children which would have seen off this cut. We will continue to resist cuts to and privatisation of our essential services at every turn.