Thursday, 25 June 2015

Cornish Devolution

Last weekend I attended the Cornish Constitutional Convention in Truro to discuss the prospects of devolving new powers to Cornwall and the importance of passing powers down from Cornwall Council to parish and town councils.

Cornwall has its own unique culture and, as a peninsula at the end of the line, also has unique challenges. While I don't agree with those who want to have a costly new "assembly" and pay for another tier of politicians, I do think there are areas like transport and culture and heritage where there is a case for more decision making powers for Cornwall Council.

As a Cornish unionist, for me there are three things that we should aim to achieve when discussing devolution in Cornwall.  Firstly, any new devolution settlement should strengthen the union and should be founded on a solid agreement within the UK, rather than relying on vague recognition by European institutions.  Secondly, it should not just be about giving power to Cornwall Council.  We also need to find ways of transferring control from Cornwall Council to town and parish councils and to the head teachers and governing bodies of individual schools.  Finally, we should remember that devolution should be about empowering people so finding mechanisms such as local referendums which give communities the power to block unpopular decisions are important.  

The Government is currently giving thought to the next wave of "growth deals" which are all about giving responsibility (and also the funding that goes with it) to Local Enterprise Partnerships so they can implement measures that will help their local economy.  There is a good case for more "enterprise zones" in Cornwall to nurture new industry.  As a peninsula, we also have unique challenges making bus services work effectively and there is a case for looking at whether a stronger franchising model could better develop coherence to services.  Finally, We have a unique culture with our own identity and language so there is a case for looking at whether Cornwall should take on more of a role promoting and managing its own heritage assets instead of the existing arrangements with English Heritage.