Cornwall “could be the UK’s silicon valley” if Cornwall Council takes the lead with a digital revolution according to a leading councillor.

The council’s Cabinet has agreed to press ahead with a new digital strategy which will cost £27million and see more services moved online.

Richard Pears, cabinet member for customers, claimed that in order for Cornwall to become a major player in the digital economy the local authority had to take the lead. He also said that digitising the council would lead to an improvement in services as more staff could spend their time taking actions to help people rather than processing calls and requests.

Under the proposals agreed by the Cabinet on Wednesday the council is seeking to appoint a commercial partner to lead the programme. However some councillors raised concerns about this and highlighted the council’s previous attempt to form a joint venture with BT, which failed and ended in a legal dispute.


But Cllr Pears said that this would be very different and that the BT deal was looking to outsource services whereas the new plans are about transforming the way the council delivers services.

Cllr Pears said that he wanted Cornwall Council to be “a leading edge authority” and said the strategy was “about creating the right solutions” and “making an effective organisation”.

He told councillors that “Cornwall’s tech sector will grow faster than anywhere else in the South West – by 18% per year."

He added: “We must play our part in that. Cornwall Council could and should be playing its part with levelling up.

“We could be the UK’s silicon valley, this is what we want for Cornwall and we must play our part. We are the largest employer in the county, if we don’t show we are leading on this, how can we expect anyone else to?”

Cllr Pears said that Cornwall was “one of the most desirable places to live and work” and that the council should be looking to attract inward investment and companies to locate in the county.

The Conservative councillor was keen to highlight that “this is not an IT project” and said it was about making the best use of technology in the council. He said: “This investment will be spent to make sure we have the right skills in the right place at the right time to deliver services for the people of Cornwall.”

Cllr Pears said that the council was looking for a strategic partner “preferably based in Cornwall” to help “deliver on our aspirations”.

Fellow Cabinet member David Harris raised the previous issues with the joint venture with BT and said that the council “could not afford” any missteps with the level of investment required and said that he would be on Cllr Pears’ back about this “from day one”.

Cllr Pears said that it was not the same as the BT joint venture adding: “This is about using the technology that we have, it is very, very different.”

The Cabinet member said that the project was “about improving services for everyone” and said that there were a “number of interactions in this council where there is no need for personal involvement”.

He said that there could be entire interactions between the council and residents which could be automated and not involve any council staff enabling staff to be able to deliver services required.

However he said that the council was not looking to get rid of more traditional ways of communicating with the public and said that people would still be able to come into an office and meet with staff if required.

Some councillors raised concerns that not everyone in Cornwall is capable of using online services and technology and said that they wanted to make sure that access is still available for all.

Cllr Tim Dwelly highlighted that the council has recently removed a lot of telephone contact numbers from its website and that while councillors were able to contact officers directly this was not easy for members of the public.

Cllr Pears said that the council had “got rid” of its analogue phone system for staff and said that this made sense as staff were no longer sat at their desks “waiting for the phone to ring” with more staff working from home as well as in council offices.

He added that 80% of people who interact with the council do so digitally. He added: “We are trying to make them better, faster and more informed so that they can do more.”