Last Friday the consultation for the proposed Devolution deal for Cornwall went live. This is being sold as a ‘Big Deal’ for Cornwall. It may well be a big deal for Conservative council leader, Linda Taylor, who would gain significant executive, decision making powers, if this devolution deal is pushed through, but this is in no way a good deal for Cornwall.
We were told in 2009 that switching from the district council system to a unitary authority would enable Cornwall to have a strong voice through a single council leader. This leader already has sweeping executive powers, but risks being removed by a vote of no confidence, if councillors believe he/she is acting against Cornwall’s best interests. A directly elected Mayor could not be removed before the end of their term of office, no matter how poorly they perform.
A lot has been made of the new devolved powers which extend only to planning and adult education – that’s it. Even then, there is some confusion as to how these new powers will impact areas who have neighbourhood plans, which already gives their locality a substantial element of development control.
Whether you support this proposed deal or not, you should have the right to tell Cornwall Council whether you want this change. The Conservatives are doing everything possible to try and get this autocratic deal through without the public having their say on it.
The consultation is worded to emphasise the financial ‘highlights’ of the deal – of course we all want extra money in Cornwall so would naturally agree with that aspect. This could now be interpreted as people agreeing with the deal, when all they are agreeing with is that they want better funding for Cornwall. This isn’t fair and the Conservatives have stated in full council that it is the results of the consultation that will decide the outcome.
The Liberal Democrats will always support a better deal for Cornwall, but not at the cost of a poor, undemocratic deal that has been forced through. Devolution should be by local consent and the form it takes should be decided by local people, not ministers in Whitehall. Mayors should only be created where local people want them and approved by a public referendum. Cornwall shouldn’t be denied a fair deal because the Conservatives don’t respect local democracy.