Deal for Cornwall – Some points of view

Posted on: 16th July 2015

Deal for Cornwall – Some points of view are given, based on press releases issued today, the day of signing. Below are statements from the Liberal Democrat Group on Cornwall Council, the official Council statement and a view from Andrew George, MP up until May 2015.

Liberal Democrat Group of Cornwall Council

The £5 billion ‘Deal’ for Cornwall Liberal Democrats in Cornwall welcome the announcement of the proposed package of devolution to Cornwall amounting to £5 billion of public money. They welcomed the movement towards devolution of powers from central government, but expressed bitter disappointment that these did not go nearly far enough.

Liberal Democrat Leader at Cornwall Council, Adam Paynter said: “This initiative originated some 18 months ago from a Liberal Democrat drafted motion to Cornwall Council, and we are naturally glad to see that it is beginning to bear fruit. Tory councillors have been against these proposals all the way along so we are thankful that the government have come around to our way of thinking. We have been intimately involved with both the development of the Case for Cornwall and the negotiation of the much more limited package announced today. We are all aware of the immensely hard work and skill that John Pollard and Cornwall Council officers have put into the exercise. We know that it has been no easy task to extract some of these undertakings from central government, and we salute their efforts. We were disappointed that the government required complete secrecy at the council meeting on Tuesday as we would have liked to have shared with the public the details of the deal before it was signed.”

Edwina Hannaford (Lib Dem) Portfolio Holder for Planning said, “Although there is much to commend in the deal, I am profoundly disappointed that the Government didn’t respond to our demands for powers to control second home ownership by allowing us to charge an additional levy. This levy could be used to delivery truly affordable homes for local people and infrastructure to support that development.”

“I cannot believe the Conservative Government have ignored our demands for powers to limit the number of second homes.” “Second homes not only contribute to rising house prices in coastal hot spots, pushing homes out of the reach of local families, but they impact on the viability and vitality of those communities. Planning and housing are important issues and of great concern to the people of Cornwall. I cannot understand how a Government that claims to be in favour of devolution can deny the people of Cornwall the powers and means to deliver more affordable housing.”

“They have also rejected our ask to take over control of Cornish heritage assets like Pendennis, Launceston and Tintagel Castles from Heritage England and the ability to list Cornish heritage assets on Cornish merits not English merits. Despite being in the Case for Cornwall ask agreed at Full Council, there is no commitment to the Cornish language either. Cornish culture and heritage is integral to the economic prosperity, environmental well being and social fabric of Cornwall.”

“I also can see nothing in the package to redress the unfair bias that central Government shows towards rural areas like Cornwall. We receive £49 million less funding compared to urban areas.”

“However, I do not wish to detract from what has been achieved by this administration, it is an encouraging, if modest start. My colleagues and I will be working very hard to ensure that the next stage of devolution addresses the things that matter most to the people of Cornwall.”

Cornwall Council Official Statement

The Leader of Cornwall Council John Pollard has joined with the Chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership Chris Pomfret and Dr Iain Chorlton, Chair of NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, to welcome the official signing of the Cornwall Devolution Deal.

Cornwall is the first rural authority in the country to be offered a devolution deal, with Prime Minister David Cameron travelling to Cornwall on Thursday to sign the formal agreement on behalf of the Government.

“This Devolution Deal is brilliant news for Cornwall” said Council Leader John Pollard.  “We were early in recognising the growing momentum of the national agenda for devolving powers from Westminster and, by creating a Case for Cornwall which was strong and realistic, we have had a positive response from the Government.  Cornwall is, therefore, the first rural authority in the country to be given a devolution deal.  This gives Cornwall greater powers over public sector funding “.

“This is the first stage of a longer journey towards delivering the full Case for Cornwall.  We will now be working with partners to develop an integrated health and social care system, and deliver significant economic growth, with enhanced business support, greater access to employment and training opportunities, together with a much improved public transport network and more efficient use of public sector buildings.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: At the heart of this One Nation Government is the belief that everyone, no matter what their background or where they’re from, has the opportunity to get on in life. 

“This devolution deal marks a major shift for the people who live and work in Cornwall – putting power in their hands and giving them the tools to take charge and make the most of the fantastic potential that Cornwall holds. 

“And, alongside our long term economic plan, which has created 19,000 jobs in Cornwall since 2010 and will deliver tax cuts to benefit 2.6million people in the region, we are determined to continue to deliver and make sure opportunity and prosperity reaches every corner of our country.”

Under the terms of the Deal, which is based on the proposals set out in the Case for Cornwall which were formally agreed by the full Council on Tuesday, Cornwall will have greater powers over public spending which is currently controlled by London.

Chris Pomfret, Chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is a tremendous achievement for Cornwall.  We look forward to the LEP playing its role in supporting Cornwall Council to achieve economic growth through the many opportunities that this deal creates, including greater flexibility with employment and skills which remain a top priority for the LEP.”

Dr Iain Chorlton, Chairman at NHS Kernow, said: “This is a significant milestone as we work towards our shared ambition of integrating health and social care, empowering local communities to have greater ownership of decisions and resources, tailored to local needs.

“Our innovative approaches in integrating health and social care are already making a difference to people’s lives – and today’s announcement could enable more resources to focus directly on local patient care and outcomes.”

The Deal covers a range of key areas including transport, employment and skills, EU funding, business support, energy, health and social care, public estate, heritage and culture, with a number of exciting “firsts” for Cornwall.

These include the proposals for transport, which will see the Council become the first rural authority in the country to be given powers to franchise bus services.  The Government has also agreed to devolve central funding on local transport.  This will deliver around £50m to create an integrated public transport system with smart ticketing, and fares and timetables for combined travel between bus, rail and ferry services.

The Government has also agreed to work with partners in Cornwall to transform health and social care services.  This will involve Cornwall Council, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, NHS Kernow and other local partners working with NHS England and other local partners to develop a business plan to move progressively towards the integration of health and social care.

Other areas include an agreement on EU funding which will see Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly given Intermediate Body (IB) status.  This will mean decisions on allocating €603.7m of European funding to projects will now be made locally rather than at Westminster.

The Government has also agreed to work with agencies in Cornwall on a number of proposals to improve employment and skills opportunities . These include reshaping training and learning provision, developing new apprenticeship opportunities and improving careers advice for young people.

There is also an agreement to work with the Council and the LEP on integrating national and local business support services to make it easier for local businesses to find the support they need, and develop a devolved approach to business support from 2017.

The Government has also agreed to support Cornwall’s aim to create a low carbon Enterprise Zone and develop geothermal energy production, as well as working with partners to help address the current constraints on the national grid and to develop proposals to improve energy efficiency in homes.

Work will also take place on joining together funding for flood defences from a range of partners, including the Environment Agency and South West Water and the South West regional flood committee, to provide a joint investment programme to improve coastal defences, and developing proposals to ensure that the most efficient use is made of public buildings and land.

The final area of agreement is heritage and culture, with the Government pledging support for the creation of a Cornish Heritage Environment Forum.

Following the formal signing of the agreement the Council will now work with its local partners and with civil servants in London to develop detailed plans to implement the proposals.

View of Ex-MP Andrew George

Commenting on the Govt’s announcement that Cornwall would become the first County to gain ‘devolution’ powers, former West Cornwall MP and the Vice Chair and founding member of the Cornwall Constitutional Convention, Andrew George said:

“Although this is a more modest passing of the buck rather than granting of meaningful powers it at least gives Cornwall a basis on which to negotiate or even demand real and significant powers in future.

“The “powers” on offer are all in areas of service delivery where the Govt is cutting budgets, intensifying statutory pressures and leaving local authorities to carry the can. If the Govt allowed a Cornish Authority to set its own budget without operating within a Whitehall straitjacket, gave Cornwall fair funding and handed powers in areas which might allow Cornwall rather than Westminster to set its agenda – especially in housing and planning – then we could congratulate the Govt for genuine policy making rather than political cynicism.

“When Cornwall can bring forward powers to, for example, give local working families priority over second home purchasers in the housing market then we’ll know that the Govt is serious about devolution. Until they do this is mostly a cynical political game of spin over substance.”