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A Cornish skirmish

When you’re one of the first areas to strike a devolution deal with the government, the last thing you want is squabbling between health and council chiefs over money.

But that is the situation in Cornwall – where the county’s mental health and community provider has warned it may have to consider entering a “formal dispute” with the county council over unpaid invoices.

The 35 invoices are worth more than £2m, and it’s no wonder Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust is keen to get the money it’s owed given the tight financial constraints on every trust.

However, the council maintains it has a duty “to ensure the proper use of public funds and must be satisfied that invoices provide sufficient information to make payment”.

The invoices relate to historic arrangements within adult community services between the council and the previous provider, which were inherited by CPFT in April 2016.

Part of the problem appears to be both sides agreeing how much is owed by the council to the trust, but the local authority’s response to HSJ also implies its accountants are not impressed by the quality of the invoices.

Either way, this is not the sort of dispute the area needs, particularly in the wake of a Care Quality Commission report last autumn that criticised the poor communication between NHS and social care chiefs.

A further test of the county’s collaborative credentials starts in April when the council takes over strategic functions from Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group.