ONE councillor has asked the local authority’s officers to write its reports and strategies in “plain English” which the residents of Cornwall can understand following discussion of a report to “encompass stakeholder views on a partnerships strategy integrating inclusive building blocks to commission devolved resource-aligned skills under a wider skills landscape”.

That particular wordy sentence was one of many featured in an “Adult Education Strategic Skills Plan” brought to a special meeting of Cornwall Council’s economic growth and development overview and scrutiny committee.

Officers were asking councillors to approve plans for adult education in Cornwall now that its £10.2-million budget has been devolved from central government as part of last year’s level two Devolution Deal agreed by the council’s cabinet and Westminster.

Cllr Tim Dwelly said: “These reports are written in a language that, I think we all know, no one understands.”

He added: “I know when it really hits home out there, stuff like this has to be translated into something you chuck on Facebook with three bullet points. Can I make a plea that we learn to do plain English – even if it’s in a separate document?

“What’s the message to people out there? I can’t turn all those words into anything with local people I represent, for example, who live on Treneere estate [in Penzance, one of the most deprived areas in the UK] where all this stuff really matters. I can’t do it. What people really want to know is where can they go and all the really basic stuff.”

He said: “I’ve been trying to say this for years – can we try to include plain English and straightforward messages. I know it’s hard to bring things down to a few bullet points sometimes, but you have to otherwise people don’t get it.

“I worry that in this council, and I’m sure many others, the language is almost saying ‘look at all these words, it sounds terribly, terribly clever’ but it doesn’t because it doesn’t actually translate. It’s the same when I was on the Cabinet – we had creative strategies and I didn’t understand a word of it. We’ve got to have a basic message to get out there.”

The committee did agree to the 2024/25 £10.2-million adult ed strategy which will also see around £800,000 per year for the Free Courses for Jobs initiative. The final budget allocation will be announced each year in February/March. The budget is designed to provide skills and additional education for people aged 19 and above in Cornwall to help them move into work, an apprenticeship or further learning.

Cllr Barbara Ellenbroek, the council’s portfolio holder for children and families, said of Cornwall taking back the budget: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for us in Cornwall because it means we can take control over what is delivered, rather than having budget decisions made out of Cornwall. I think sometimes people look at adult education and think it’s simply learning to knit or how to paint flowers – those are very important parts of what we do – but adult ed is absolutely crucial for upskilling people.”

The meeting heard that the majority of adult education is provided by Cornwall College, Truro & Penwith College and Cornwall Council’s own adult education service.

Cllr Dwelly said there had been concerns with Cornwall College which had a “big problem recently and bit off more than it could chew going down the university type route” with “various big cheeses leaving”.

He asked: “How solid is Cornwall College, as it’s terribly important? Is it back on track? What’s the council’s view of the biggest non-council provider of training?”

Glenn Caplin-Grey, service director for economy and skills, replied: “A few years ago the college did get into a difficult financial situation which was reflected in Ofsted scores and things like that. The team that have been put in place have done a really good job in turning that around over the past two to three years, so standards have improved in terms of Ofsted ratings. The financial position has also improved, which was kickstarted by an intervention by the Department for Education and government.

“We regard them as a strong partner. They’re certainly very well regarded in some of those occupational skills and apprenticeships, particularly in industrial areas like shipbuilding.”

Cllr Peter La Broy said the key to getting the adult education budget right was understanding the aspirations of the learners alongside what the Cornish economy actually needs.

Stacey Sleeman, people and prosperity manager, said it currently accords well, particularly in the two large sectors of care and construction. She said work with colleges is currently taking place to ensure learners realise there are career opportunities in up-and-coming sectors such as tech and digital.