“The deal looks to be worth £12m per year, which is a tiny percentage of Cornwall Council’s budget – about 1%.” (Labour Leader)
“A drop in the ocean when you consider that the council faces a shortfall of £63m in its budget for the next year.” (Acting Leader LibDems)
“It’s astonishing that this deal is being signed by one person, Linda Taylor, without even holding a debate and a vote of her cabinet let alone Cornwall Council. This is the same Linda Taylor that has said she wants to be mayor and she will know the job will pay double what she gets now. This whole thing has a nasty whiff about it. It’s a shabby stitch-up by one political party that knows they are losing power.” (Independent councillor Tim Dwelly).
Campaigning to become Mayor of a rural area the size of Cornwall will need the logistic backing that only a National Party or a millionaire can offer. Doesn’t look very “fair” or “democratic” to Owl, more like a “plutocracy”.
Richard Whitehouse www.cornwalllive.com
Cornwall Council has signed a new devolution deal with the Government which would guarantee £360million of funding and new powers over the next 30 years. Cornwall MP Steve Double said that the publication of the Cornwall deal was the “start of a new era”.
At Spaceport Cornwall Levelling Up Minister Dehanna Davison signed the document alongside Cornwall Council’s Conservative leader Linda Taylor with both describing it as an “historic” day. The deal is subject to public consultation, full agreement from Cornwall Council and Parliamentary approval.
Under the deal Cornwall Council would be given responsibility for the adult education budget as well as getting additional powers over planning, housing and transport. The deal includes an additional £8.7m for housing and funding for the Cornish culture and language.
The proposed deal has been overshadowed by the requirement for Cornwall Council to change its governance arrangements to secure the deal which will mean Cornwall having a directly-elected mayor for the first time. There has been a vigorous debate about whether there should be a public referendum on whether Cornwall wants to have a mayor elected by the people – instead of a council leader chosen by councillors.
Explaining the need for a mayor Ms Davison said: “We set out in the Levelling Up white paper a framework for devolution and different levels that people could opt into and we always said that in order to access the biggest groups of powers and funding we would like to have that directly accountable leadership so we in central government can go spend the money on what they are doing and that is why we really believe in the mayoral model.
“But we have never imposed that on any local area, it has always been for areas to opt into that and Cornwall were very keen to do so and I am really, really pleased that they decided to. You would have heard what Steve the local MP was talking about, having a seat at the table in these big national negotiations Cornwall will be there with their mayor and attracting international investment. People all over the world know what a mayor is as a figurehead for a local area and a spokesperson for that local area and that is going to be really important.
“But also being on the start of a devolution journey with a mayor in place, if you look at other areas across the country with elected mayors – I’m talking about Teesside, West Midlands, and Greater Manchester – they started with a particular deal and since then there has been so much more progress, so much more powers given, so much more funding given so I think this is the start of a really, really incredible and positive journey.”
The headline figure on the deal is the £360m over 30 years which provides £12m a year for Cornwall. But Ms Davison said that it was not just about the funding: “It is absolutely not, this is the start and the start of a long-term agreement between Government and Cornwall to make sure we are focusing on what is right for Cornwall and they have the powers and funding they need to attract investment, grow local jobs, bring benefits for the local area and that investment fund is additional money, money that wasn’t available otherwise so that is a good thing, but having it guaranteed across 30 years is really important because what that allows us, the mayor, the leader, to do is borrow against it and put in place really major investments at the outset.
“A guaranteed 30 years of funding coming in they are able to invest in vital infrastructure improvements, they can invest in job growth and opportunities, so it is so much more than that, but also having a seat at the table, looking at further, deeper devolution as we move along, there will be other opportunities, this is not the end it is very much the start.”
The Cornwall Devolution Deal which was signed at Spaceport Cornwall today [Looks a bit “foxed” to Owl]
Cornwall Council is set to launch its consultation on the deal next week and the minister said that people should get involved: “This is an opportunity for local people to feed in and give their views but I would certainly hope that now that they can see the detail of what is in the deal that they would see it as an optimistic thing. Of course it is up to Cornwall Council, Linda and her team to go out and sell this as well as local MPs and us in Government but also that is why the consultation is important. I am an optimist, I am very much an optimist, and I feel in my bones that when people see these details and recognise what it could mean for them and their communities they will absolutely be behind this.
“There are real tangible things here for local people and it is our job to go out and sell that. That consultation is going to be really important and we would encourage as many people as possible take part.”
St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double attended the event at Cornwall Airport Newquay and said the deal was about much more than just extra funding and he believed the introduction of a Mayor for Cornwall was actually more important.
“It is far more than that (funding), clearly the money is welcome but we need to see this as the start of the journey. It is not the finished picture. It gives us the opportunity to reset our relationship with government to have a new era, to have a seat at the top table along with the other mayors across the country. And then that gives us a basis for future negotiations to attract more investment, more powers, devolve more powers to Cornwall.
“It will give us a much stronger voice nationally and to really start to address some of those deep-seated issues and those powers are there in the deal around housing and dealing with some of our challenges around transport, adult education, these are really important things for Cornwall’s future and to have that clear, democratically-elected political leadership that really can represent Cornwall at the top table is really important, that is what this deal is about. Money is important and welcome but it is really about giving us a stronger voice.”
On the split opinions about a mayor Mr Double claimed it would not add another level of bureaucracy and would give people more of a say: “I think in terms of Cornwall it is primarily an administrative change. We are simply saying that instead of 87 councillors picking who should be the leader of Cornwall Council the people of Cornwall will get to elect who leads Cornwall Council, we are basically swapping the leader of Cornwall Council for a directly-elected mayor and that means that the people of Cornwall will have a far greater say over who leads the council.”
And he added it would help Cornwall on a wider scale: “I also think it is about having that far greater profile and voice nationally and internationally. We mustn’t underestimate the international significance. Governments around the world and businesses around the world are used to dealing with mayors, they understand that they have that clear political leadership and mandate and therefore it gives us a great opportunity to promote Cornwall internationally and attract investment and help with our economic growth here in Cornwall. So I think for those reasons that is why I believe it is the right thing to do. I know a lot of people have got caught up in it and lots of speculation that it means another layer of bureaucracy it really won’t, it isn’t another layer of government, it is about replacing the leader of Cornwall Council chosen by councillors with the leader of Cornwall Council chosen by the people of Cornwall.”
But what if, in the consultation, the people of Cornwall reject this deal and proposal for a mayor? Mr Double said: “The council will have to listen to that, that is the whole point of the consultation. But now we have got the deal and people can see for themselves, I would simply say to everyone in Cornwall, let’s approach this with an open mind, most decent, honest, sensible people in Cornwall I think will take the opportunity to look at exactly what is on offer, not the speculation and all that has been going on up until this point. We have now got it in black and white, take a look and I struggle to see what’s not to like about this. More money, more powers, the opportunity to continue to protect and enhance our unique Cornish identity and culture, which is really important to a lot of people here, and the opportunity to make the most of the opportunities ahead of us.”
Mrs Taylor said: “This is a big deal for the whole of Cornwall and provides the certainty required to tackle the challenges we face. This gives us the opportunity to secure more decision-making powers as well as bringing in millions of pounds of extra investment which will allow us to shape the future of Cornwall for the benefit of residents for many years to come.
“The proposed deal provides clarity in uncertain times and would allow us to make future plans with confidence, enabling us to deliver on our priorities to create a carbon neutral Cornwall where everyone can start well, live well and age well.
“The government has made it clear that the proposed deal is conditional on making our governance change. I am appealing to one and all to carefully consider this huge opportunity for Cornwall to receive more funding, powers and influence – and have your say on the deal that will help shape Cornwall’s future when the consultation begins next week.”
However, opposition councillors have not been impressed, many of them highlighting that they had not been given details of the deal before they were released to the media. Cllr Taylor said the information had been sent out by the Government and she did not want councillors to hear about it in that way but all councillors would be sent a copy of the deal and have a briefing on it.
Labour group leader Jayne Kirkham said: “On the face of it (because most councillors have not yet seen it) the deal looks mainly to be worth £12m per year, which is a tiny percentage of Cornwall Council’s budget – about 1%. It cannot possibly deal with all the issues that Cornwall faces.
“It also seems that the cost of the mayoral election and paying for the mayor themselves could have to come out of that figure, which may not be able to be spent on services like social care. The whole deal is conditional upon Cornwall accepting a mayor and there do not seem to be any significant powers passported down from Westminster as part of this deal.
“It’s also disappointing that the deal is being ‘signed’ today by a junior government minister and the leader of Cornwall Council before Cornwall Council and the people of Cornwall have even seen it. The Conservatives are taking Cornwall for granted.
“The next Labour government is committed to pushing forwards with genuine devolution that will be much deeper and broader than that being offered by the Conservatives. We also wouldn’t force a mayor or governance structure on Cornwall.
We have a plan for green growth – investment in renewables, clean power, insulating 19 million homes, skills and jobs. All of that could benefit Cornwall so much and bring real investment and decent, well-paid jobs down here.”
Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole called on people to take part in the consultation and call for “real devolution” for Cornwall. He said: “From the press release it is clear to me that this so-called devolution deal is not devolution at all. It does not include far reaching powers being transferred from Westminster to Cornwall like what has happened elsewhere in Wales and Scotland that helped create the Welsh Parliament and Scottish Parliament.
“As someone who has campaigned for meaningful devolution for his entire adult life I am desperately disappointed that this is the best that we can do. I would call on everyone to call for proper devolution.”
He added: “We feel very much outside of this, it is a Conservative council coming up with something with a Conservative Government. People should make their views heard and I would say that people need to look at the devolution deal as well as the mayoral part of it. Cornwall is a unique place, it is a Celtic nation like Wales and Scotland and we should be coming together asking for proper devolution like they have got.”
Colin Martin, acting leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The content of the deal looks extremely weak. It touches on many areas of concern to residents in Cornwall, but the new powers and funding on offer fall far short of what is needed to tackle the enormous challenges we face.
“For example, on housing, we want the power to require planning permission before a home can be converted to holiday accommodation. There are 21,000 people on the waiting list for affordable housing in Cornwall, and 25,000 houses being used as second homes or holiday lets. But all the deal offers is a promise to ‘work closely with Government to address these issues’. That’s exactly what was promised would happen if we elected six Conservative MPs to represent us, and again in 2021 we were told the same if we elected Conservatives to run the council, yet the situation has only got worse.
“The promise of £360m sounds great… until you realise it’s spread over thirty years. The annual figure of just £12m is a drop in the ocean when you consider that the council faces a shortfall of £63m in its budget for the next year.
“Devolution without adequate powers and money is simply a recipe for passing the buck. The new mayor will end up being a lightning rod to divert criticism for Conservative failure away from our Conservative Government.”
Independent councillor Tim Dwelly said: “It’s astonishing that this deal is being signed by one person, Linda Taylor, without even holding a debate and a vote of her cabinet let alone Cornwall Council. This is the same Linda Taylor that has said she wants to be mayor and she will know the job will pay double what she gets now. This whole thing has a nasty whiff about it. It’s a shabby stitch-up by one political party that knows they are losing power.
“And everyone can see it’s no big deal. There isn’t going to be any extra money at all for council services. Not even £1. The Cornish people must be given a vote on whether they want an all-powerful mayor running everything. It’s time for a referendum. Without one this whole thing will be seen as the worst possible case of London ordering Cornwall to do what it’s told.”