The G7 cavalcades have left Carbis Bay now, and the whirr of helicopters has been replaced once more by birdsong. But as the ‘ring of steel’ is dismantled, there has been more left hanging over Cornwall this week than a sense of missed opportunity, reports the Mirror.
As former Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the summit of “unforgivable moral failure” after nothing was agreed on global vaccination, locals are facing a Covid wave. Areas around where the G7 summit happened last weekend are now showing some of the highest rates of infection in the UK, with St Ives and Falmouth up exponentially. Meanwhile, local charities say that homeless people were “cleared out” of local hotels to sleep in cars and tents to make way for the G7 staff and security entourage, and house prices have rocketed as a global television audience admired the white sands and turquoise waters.
As a £90million G7 ended without addressing the needs of the world’s poor, foodbanks in Cornwall are piled high with food waste from its buffets and banquets. “We’ve had 1,000 chicken legs in the freezer, and about 1,000 vegan rolls,” says Monique Collins of DISC (Drop In and Share Centre) Newquay, which supports homeless and vulnerable people in south west Cornwall. “There are tonnes of scones, Victoria sponges and litres of double cream. We’ll make use of all of it, and we’re grateful to have it donated. But yes, it does feel wrong. Cornwall could have used £90m as we’ve got some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country.”
The G7 unfolded as a heavily styled luxury beach wedding with its summer dresses, champagne and sunsets, and was hailed as Boris’s Great Success by the Government. The irony is not lost on those forced to sleep rough when the hotel rooms they were offered during the pandemic were withdrawn. Adding to G7 staff, 5,000 police officers were shipped into Cornwall during the summit.
“A few months ago, it was ‘Everyone In’,” Monique says. “Last week it was Everyone Out. These rooms were booked a year ago, so we knew this was coming. We’ve had people sleeping in cars, on the beach, in tents, sometimes left on the roadside with their clothes in bin bags, and staying with local residents. Some people were shipped out to expensive hotels. Added to which we were nearly Covid-free down here and we’re now facing a massive wave.”
Locals say the Cornish housing crisis, already exacerbated by people leaving cities after Covid, has been turbocharged. Becky Draper, a 33-year-old mother of four, is facing eviction in Perranporth, 20 miles from Carbis Bay. “It will be our fourth move in five years,” she says. The family aren’t protected by the eviction ban – it is under ‘no fault’ Section 21 because the landlord is selling the property.
Newquay hosted the airport for the G7 – with an estimated £8m spent on lengthening the runway for Air Force One. George Duncan, 20, who works as a cocktail barman, speaks to me from self-isolation in the town after testing positive for Covid last week. “There are at least 12 venues including schools closed locally,” he says. “I’ve had quite bad symptoms but not being able to work is worse.” He and his housemate, also in hospitality, were receiving food parcels from DISC Newquay.
During the G7, Rev Chris Wallis put a sign up outside his church in St Ives to say: “Please remember when discussing economic recovery from Covid-19 – food poverty has quadrupled in this area.” He feels the G7 visit has turned a difficult situation into a crisis. “It showcased Cornwall all over the world when house prices are a major concern here,” he says. “The cost of putting a roof over people’s heads is leading to food poverty. Estate agents are telling me it’s out of control, people ringing from outside Cornwall offering 10% over the asking price, property unseen. Meanwhile, one of our foodbank clients who recently had a heart bypass has had to move to a caravan. Another is sleeping in his car and going into work each day.”
Rightmove has reported that property searches for Carbis Bay doubled when the summit opened. “Even I am affected by this,” Rev Wallis says. “I am actually facing eviction myself and have no idea where I can afford to go.” Cornwall Council says there is no evidence to connect the rise in case numbers to the G7 summit.
A spokeswoman added: “The lack of availability of temporary accommodation in local hotels is a seasonal issue which has been exacerbated by the exceptional number of people we are supporting due to the pandemic. We continue to support those affected and offer alternative accommodation when a current placement has to end due to booking availability.”
After last week’s summit, Oxfam’s Max Lawson summed up G7’s failures. “This summit will live on in infamy. Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world. We don’t need to wait for history to judge this summit a colossal failure, it is plain for all to see.” For many people in Cornwall, the consequences have already hit.