Saturday, 8 February 2014

Another case of Deja Vu – Lib Dems to back devolution to Cornwall?

It has been announced that the Liberal Democrats will be debating devolution at their spring conference in York next month.

One local Liberal Democrat was reported as saying that the proposal for their conference was for “asymmetric devolution,” where “different regions could assume different powers from government.”

He is also reported as saying that the “culture, identity and history” of Cornwall made it a special case and that the “foundations for a devolved assembly, based on the Welsh model, had already been laid through the creation of the unitary authority.”

The Lib Dems have been here many times before, and they are, once again, confusing national/regional government for Cornwall and local government.

Readers of my blog might like to remember the following:

1. In November 2001, Liberal Democrats held a Conference in Cornwall, at which they agreed to campaign for a Regional Assembly for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

2. The Lib Dems contested the 2005 General Election and Cornwall County Council elections with a Cornish Manifesto, which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly.

3. Upon winning control of Cornwall County Council that year, they published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office. The Lib Dems did not take this pledge forward.

4. At another conference of Cornish Liberal Democrats in November 2005, they re-affirmed their commitment to the campaign for a Cornish Assembly. The motion specifically stated that “devolution to a Cornish tier of strategic regional government” was needed in advance of any reform to local government structures. In their press material to publicise the event, Andrew George MP said: “… the Government will not get away with their belief that they can fob us off with a rearrangement of deckchairs on the Titanic of local government.”

5. However in October 2006, when Labour launched a Local Government White Paper, which included measures to allow “a small number of councils to seek unitary status,” the Liberal Democrat County Council immediately jettisoned their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and began to prepare a bid for a single council.

6. In spite of the Liberal Democrat resolution from November 2005 and earlier commitments to a Cornish Assembly, Lib Dem MPs suddenly starting making claims that this was a “golden opportunity” to “get some powers back to Cornwall.”

7. They even carried on making the claim that local government reorganisation would lead to devolution after a senior director at the Department for Communities and Local Government visited Cornwall and confirmed that a unitary authority would not be able to draw down greater powers from regional and central government.

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