Saturday, 30 May 2015

Cornwall deserves better!

My article in next week’s Cornish Guardian looks at how the Queen’s Speech contained much about constitutional reform, but Cornwall was ignored … again! It will be as follows:

The first Queen’s Speech of the new Conservative Government contained much about constitutional reform.

There was, of course, the promised renegotiation of the “United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union” and an “in-out referendum on membership of the EU before the end of 2017.”

The Government outlined its commitment to further legislation to “secure a strong and lasting constitutional settlement, devolving wide-ranging powers to Scotland and Wales,” alongside other measures to boost the devolved structures in Northern Ireland.

It also set out a proposal for "English votes for English laws" at Westminster, while promoting a “Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill” which it says “paves the way for powers over housing, transport, planning and policing" to be devolved to large English cities and their hinterlands.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, there was no specific mention of Cornwall.

We continue to hear a lot about devolution and localism from Westminster politicians, but I personally feel it is a sham.

A few months ago, the Prime Minister was in Cornwall promoting a local “growth deal.” David Cameron had a lot to say about “giving local communities the power and the money,” and he described the funding announcement as being about “genuine devolution.”

But the reality is that responsibility for the “growth deal” falls to the unelected and unaccountable Local Enterprise Partnership. And don’t forget, it was also around this time that central government did a U-turn and centralised administrative control over the next programme of EU funding away from Cornwall.

The unitary authority is promoting a “Case for Cornwall,” which it says “sets out details of the additional powers and freedoms we want from the new Government.”

But I am greatly disappointed by this document which is not ambitious enough for Cornwall. It did not make the case for a far-reaching new democratic settlement for our area, as has been delivered in Wales and Scotland. It simply seeks a few limited extra powers for our one principal local authority.

The document does not even seek to combat the influence of the growing number of unelected groups and boards, which are taking political and economic power away from those who have been elected democratically. Indeed, in places, it even suggests increasing the extent of this unaccountable quangocracy.

I believe Cornwall deserves better. And now is the time to put pressure on the unitary authority and Cornwall’s six MPs to demand they campaign for meaningful democratic devolution for Cornwall and the creation of our own National Assembly.

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