Monday, 20 July 2015

My Cornish Guardian column: the "Devolution Deal"

In this week’s Cornish Guardian, my article will be on the “Devolution Deal.” It includes material from recent blogs, but is posted here for completeness. It will be as follows:

It is to be welcomed that central government has recognised the long-standing demands from Cornwall for devolution.

But that said, I am extremely disappointed at the extent of what has been proposed through the “Cornwall Devolution Deal,” which was officially announced by central government on Thursday.

It does not go far enough, and it could have been so much more ambitious.

The official government statement claimed that it seeks to end the “hoarding of power in Whitehall” and describes the “Cornwall Deal” as “historic.”

This is simply not true - the reality is that the “Deal” pales in comparison to the devolution enjoyed in Scotland and Wales. Indeed, central government has also stated that it is just the “first of many devolution deals for counties.”

The agreement of the “Deal” was also top-down, and it was ridiculous that councillors were only shown the document at a Council meeting last Tuesday. And it was even more ridiculous that the Government dictated that the meeting had to be held behind closed doors.

The headline announcements are that (i) Cornwall Council will have new powers to franchise bus services in the area; (ii) Cornwall Council will work with local health organisations on a plan for integrating health and social care services, (iii) Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will be given Intermediate Body status to allow some more localised control over EU funding, and (iv) the Local Enterprise Partnership will be given “more say on boosting local skills levels” and the ability to “integrate national and local business support services.”

From my perspective, it is not “democratic” devolution to give more influence to unelected bodies with limited democratic legitimacy such as the Local Enterprise Partnership, and it is also extremely disappointing that Cornwall has failed to secure any new powers over planning or housing.

But the Government has also stated that it will consider “proposals put forward on devolving more powers in the future” if a “strong case” is made.

I believe we need to take the Government at its word on this, and it as a challenge. We need to build on the “Deal;” to ensure that a limited amount of power given to “local government” does not act as a logjam for further devolution; and we need to construct a powerful public campaign for a powerful Cornish Assembly with full democratic control over the whole of the public sector in Cornwall.

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