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'I'm here to help county cope with its challenges'

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: January 16, 2014

Andrew Kerr, the new chief executive of Cornwall Council.

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FOR Andrew Kerr, the decision to come to Cornwall was an easy one.

"There were several attractions," the softly spoken Scot says with a smile. "The place is, of course, beautiful.

"Professionally, it's one of the largest unitary authorities in the country, and I have a real professional interest in localism.

"Cornwall has made that leap and is made up of small communities, and making that work as a whole successfully is a great professional challenge.

"And I guess if you combine that with the dichotomy of the pull of about £1 billion of investment which is coming in the next five to ten years through European funding and having to save around £200 million in revenue here in this place, then both are professional challenges."

The married father of three says "like everyone" he has memories of summer holidays spent in Cornwall including one whole summer spent in Mousehole when the former athlete was recovering from an injury.

And it's clear from spending even a short time with Mr Kerr that he is clear on the direction he sees Cornwall Council and Cornwall as a whole taking in the next few years.

He is unabashed about saying that the council "needs to find a way to do more with less" and says that the council has to find new ways of delivering the services it provides.

Of course the last time the council tried to find a "new way" it was shrouded in controversy; part- privatisation of services resulted in a new company being formed with BT, but the political fallout resulted in the departure of a council leader and, ultimately, of Mr Kerr's predecessor Kevin Lavery.

Asked about this, he says the BT project has been a success, and is something the council must build on if it is to continue to provide services on the present scale.

One of the problems facing Cornwall Council is a cut in the funding it receives from central government, something Mr Kerr was addressing on his first day in his job when he joined a delegation of councillors to London to meet government ministers.

There they argued the need for fair funding, pointing out that Cornwall as a rural council gets less per head of population than urban ones.

Mr Kerr says that they also raised other issues: "One of the things is to convince the Government to allow local authorities more power to spend the money they're given.

"Rather than the Government saying, 'Here's a pot of money; you must do this with it', it would be better if they gave us all our money and said, 'You need to do this, this and this but you can decide how you do it'.

"That would enable us to be in control of our finances and address the issues that we face in our individual areas."

Turning to the investment coming to Cornwall through European funding, Mr Kerr says he sees this as a great opportunity to create more jobs in Cornwall as well as boosting existing businesses in the county.

However, he also recognises that while some of the investment will mean large-scale developments, that has to be balanced against protecting Cornwall's landscape and character:

"That's vital; we need to protect what Cornwall's unique for while also ensuring that we can move on and create more jobs."

He also stresses that such benefits won't be seen immediately.

"We're starting to see the benefits of large-scale infrastructure projects here in Cornwall now – superfast broadband, the university and, in time, the developments at Newquay airport.

"Any new projects won't provide immediate benefits but, in time, they will generate real opportunities for Cornwall."

He at once concedes that major developments will never supplant smaller firms as the backbone of the Cornish economy.

"Cornwall's never going to be a big manufacturing area; it's an area which is supported by small and medium-sized businesses and we must continue to support those that are here while also encouraging new ones to set up here in Cornwall," he says.

It's clear from the way Mr Kerr speaks that he has a genuine concern for Cornwall and is also excited about his new post.

"In my whole career I've wanted to go somewhere I can make a difference and I really do think we can do some exciting things here in Cornwall," he says. "I've been given this job and I promise to do it to the best of my ability. I really want to help Cornwall, and that's why I'm here."

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  • birminghamhar  |  February 24 2014, 11:08AM

    This new man Andrew Kerr was well known in Birmingham as being Tony Blair's friend e.g. family visits to each others homes/Chequers etc . Andrew Kerr came to Birmingham as Director of Leisure, got to know Tony Blair then got a promotion to Directory of Strategy. Andrew then jumped ship from Birmingham to take his first role as Chief Executive in Tony Blair Land i.e NE England. Andrew Kerr then moved to in Wiltshire , left 18 months later under unfortunate circumstances, however Andrew Kerr was crying all the way to the bank as my estimate is that he accrued an approximate average of £6000 income per week from Wiltshire in total- not bad for some one who claims in his last interview not to be in it for the money! Andrew Kerr then went to Cardiff, waxing lyrically in writing about how much he loved Cardiff and his fond memories. Cardiff Chief Exec position became available, however Andrew kerr was not considered to merit being considered for Chief Executive, temporary or otherwise. A Kerr again moved jumped ship quickly and again waxed lyrically about his love for his third prospective employer (Cornwall) in as many years and made numerous intangible claims about apparently spending every recreation moment of his life here. Why is a LIBERAL DEMOCRAT Council Hiring one of Tony's cronies, with such a dubious record? At best, I feel he may jump ship to early retirement in a few years on his final salary pension of 60% which will mean we may be paying him £100,000 for the rest of his life, after he receives a few more pay rise increments? Surely civil servants such as Andrew Kerr should be 'A-Political' and not align themselves so openly with the former Labour PM? There are so many indications of poor judgement on the part of our new Chief Executive Andrew Kerr that you have to ask does all he have to do is survive on the coat tails of our previous good Chief Executive's achievements until he decides to jump ship. It is poignant that he refuses to commit to moving to cornwall in the foreseeable future. If he does not have firm plans to move after the end of the June term at school this year our councillors should be asking real questions as to his intent and commitment to our region.

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  • josdave  |  January 16 2014, 9:34AM

    I still fail to see why a council needs a CEO. Especially one who is paid more than the Prime Minister. Is running a council more important than running the country? It's time councils up and down the country started refusing to pay these highly inflated salaries.

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