Monday, 7 January 2008

Government responds to MK e-petition

Like many other people, I have just received the Government’s response to an e-petition posted on the Downing Street website by MK councillor Richard Clark which called on them to “reject Cornwall County Council's bid for unitary status” and to instead introduce legislation for a Cornish Assembly.

The Government response is not in any way surprising. It was as follows:

“The Government issued an Invitation to Councils in October 2006 to come forward with proposals for a single-tier of local government in their areas. Following a process of careful assessment, which included a twelve week consultation on shortlisted proposals, the Government announced on 5 December 2007 that Cornwall County Council's proposal for a single unitary council for Cornwall will be implemented.

"It was judged to have met all of the five criteria as specified in the original Invitation to Councils. The order creating the unitary authority will be debated in Parliament in the New Year. It is intended that the new unitary council will be up and running on 1 April 2009.

"The Government's view on the idea of a separate assembly for Cornwall is well known and remains unchanged. It is not easy to see advantage in an 'assembly' that would duplicate an existing unit of local government over a coterminous area.

"The Government's approach on devolving powers from central Government to the sub-region was set out in the Local Government White Paper published on 26 October 2006 and in the Review of sub-national economic development and regeneration published on 17 July 2007. The Review builds on the White Paper by proposing increased powers and stronger incentives for all local authorities, including those in Cornwall, to improve the prosperity of their communities.

"On 17 July 2007, the Government also announced that 'Regional Assemblies in their current form and function will not continue'. Regional Assembly planning and housing responsibilities will transfer to the existing Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).”

The Government statement is very disappointing, but clearly shows that the creation of a single council for Cornwall is about local government reform and nothing more.

The statement demolishes those ridiculous Liberal Democrat claims that a unitary council for Cornwall will lead to the devolution of greater powers.

The response notes that there may be some ‘increased powers’ for all local authorities. In other words, if the Government does finally get around to devolving a few more powers to local authorities, it will not just be to unitary councils. Indeed, bodies such as Somerset County Council will get just as much a Cornish unitary council.

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