Monday, 8 February 2016

Cornwall merits proper devolution

Quite often, I meet people who tell me how pleased they are that Cornwall has achieved “devolution.”

They have obviously seen the headlines about the so-called “devolution deal” agreed between central government and the unitary authority.

But sadly, many individuals do not seem to fully appreciate that the “deal” was extremely feeble and only allowed very limited new powers to the unitary authority while giving other responsibilities to unelected bodies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership. This, I believe, has actually undermined democracy locally.

Cornwall has certainly not secured significant powers like the National Assembly of Wales and the Scottish Parliament, which have democratic control over much of the public sector.

Just compare Cornwall’s “deal” with what has happened in Scotland and Wales, where there have been referendums and numerous bills in parliament. Indeed, the Silk Commission (Wales) and Smith Commission (Scotland) both reported in 2014, proposing the devolution of even greater powers to the respective legislative bodies, which now form the basis of further legislation.

Cornwall’s “deal” was so insignificant that it did not even get debated in Parliament.

As the leader of Mebyon Kernow, I have spent much of my adult life campaigning for meaningful devolution which, I feel, needs to be to a new legislative body – namely a Cornish Assembly.

But it really saddens me that many politicians only wish to debate very limited new powers for Cornwall in the context of cash-strapped local government and a host of unaccountable quangos of limited democratic legitimacy.

This was very much the case in last week’s Cornish Guardian in the Andrew Gordon column and reported comments from local MPs.

I found it particularly disappointing to see Scott Mann criticizing calls for greater devolution – in this case on policing – because Cornwall Council has had difficulties in this age of austerity.

It is little wonder that councils are struggling because the Conservative Government has so massively reduced funding to local government. The MP for North Cornwall was particularly cheeky to raise the examples of toilets and the BT deal to have a dig at Cornwall Council, as these initiatives were brought forward by the previous Conservative administration on the authority of which he was a part.

From my perspective, the day-to-day trials of under-funded councils across the UK cannot be used as some political excuse to keep real power tightly wrapped up in London.

In 2016, I would appeal to one and all to stop “talking down” Cornwall and its democracy, and to be ambitious to push for proper devolution.

[This will be my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].  

1 comment:

PaulS said...

Cornwall merits proper Independence. Consider that Isle of Man, Guernsey & Jersey have full independence except for external affairs. Iceland is fully independent with a population of 300,000. Even tiny countries, such as Andora, Lichtenstein and Monaco manage perfectly well.
The various level of 'devolution' are just muddying the water. Declaring 'independence' as the ultimate, although perhaps distant, goal, just like the Welsh and Scottish parties, would clarify and differentiate Cornish politics.
After all, MK can hardly do much worse.