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Cornwall leapfrogs West Midlands in devolution race

Cornwall leapfrogs West Midlands in devolution race

🕔17.Jul 2015

Britain’s poorest county Cornwall has leapt ahead of the West Midlands in the devolution race.

In a ground-breaking deal with the Government, Cornwall council will gain powers to run bus services, economic development, adult skills, and will be able to integrate health and social services into a single unit.

Significantly, the deal has been approved without the need for Cornwall to have an elected mayor.

George Osborne, the chancellor, has said several times that “the full suite of devolved powers” can only be handed to regions prepared to have a mayor – like Greater Manchester.

The Cornish deal suggests the Government is prepared in some cases to sanction widespread devolution without a mayor, although in this case Cornwall is governed by a single unitary authority with a council leader and cabinet already in place.

Last year the European Union declared Cornwall to be the UK’s poorest region and one of the ten most deprived areas in Western Europe.

With an economy relying largely on seasonal summer tourism jobs, average wages are just over £14,000 a year compared to the UK average of £23,000.

The deal will:

  • Give Cornwall council powers for franchising and improving bus services in the area – the first rural unitary authority to gain this power.
  • Give the Local Enterprise Partnership more say on boosting local skills levels.
  • Give the council powers to select the projects it wants to see benefiting from millions of pounds of inward investment funding.
  • Make it easier for the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership to integrate national and local business support services to help local firms grow.
  • Enable Cornwall council and the council of the Isles of Scilly to work with local health organisations on a plan for integrating health and social care services.

A week ago the seven West Midlands metropolitan councils launched a prospectus setting out plans to form a combined authority with the hope of gaining devolved powers from Whitehall over transport, economic development and the skills agenda.

The document was the result of two years of sensitive negotiations to persuade the Black Country councils, Solihull and Coventry to set aside historic rivalries and team up with Birmingham and three Local Enterprise Partnerships to form what would be the country’s largest combined authority.

Council leaders promised “slick and fast” decision making, but the Government is yet to approve the combined authority and talks are continuing about bringing Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire districts into the shadow body.

Speaking about the Cornish devolution deal, the Prime Minister David Cameron said:

At the heart of this one nation government is the belief that everyone, no matter what their background or where they’re from, has the opportunity to get on in life.

This devolution deal marks a major shift for the people who live and work in Cornwall – putting power in their hands and giving them the tools to take charge and make the most of the fantastic potential that Cornwall holds.

And, alongside our long term economic plan, which has created 19,000 jobs in Cornwall since 2010 and will deliver tax cuts to benefit 2.6 million people in the region, we are determined to continue to deliver and make sure opportunity and prosperity reaches every corner of our country.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:

This deal is great news for Cornwall and I hope the first of many devolution deals for counties around the country as part of our long-term economic plan.

This one nation government is determined to end the hoarding of power in Whitehall and put it in the hands of local people who know their area best.

This historic deal ensures Cornwall has the powers and resources that will allow it to create the jobs and services it knows are best suited to the area and that will help local people and the county thrive.

Cornwall council Leader John Pollard said:

We were early in recognising the growing momentum of the national agenda for devolving powers from Westminster and, by creating a ‘case for Cornwall’ which was strong and realistic we have had a positive response from the government.

This is the first stage of a longer journey towards delivering the full case for Cornwall. We will now be working with partners to develop an integrated health and social care system, and deliver significant economic growth, with enhanced business support, greater access to employment and training opportunities, together with a much improved public transport network and more efficient use of public sector buildings.

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