Monday, 3 August 2015

"Cornwall is the first rural authority in the country to be given a devolution deal."

There are rumblings about greater autonomy for the South-West:
Futures Forum: An independent South-West?

These are the latest ideas from the East Devon Watch blog:
SWIPE – “South West Independence Party England” | East Devon Watch

And this is the latest from Cornwall:
Cornwall devolution: First county with new powers - BBC News
English devolution is go: Cornwall is first county to receive powers over employment, transport, business support, energy, health and social care | City A.M.

Rural first as Cornwall gains new powers

Sunday, 26 July 2015 15:57Written by  Ruralcity Media

Rural first as Cornwall gains new powers
CORNWALL has become the first rural authority in England to secure new powers to control local services.
It gives Cornwall council powers for franchising and improving bus services in the area – the first rural unitary authority to gain this power.
It also gives the Local Enterprise Partnership more say on boosting local skills levels.
In addition, the council will be able to select the projects and work with partners on initiatives it wants to see benefiting from millions of pounds of inward investment funding.
The deal will 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.
It will 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
Prime Minister David Cameron and Communities Secretary Greg Clark travelled to Cornwall to support the signing of the formal agreement.
Mr 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."
The deal follows a Case for Cornwall campaign lead by Cornwall Council which put the case for power to be transferred to the local authority from Westminster.
Council leader John Pollard said: "This Devolution Deal is brilliant news for Cornwall."
By creating a Case for Cornwall which was strong and realistic, the county had received a positive response from the government when it came to devolving powers, he added.
"Cornwall is, therefore, the first rural authority in the country to be given a devolution deal," said Mr Pollard. "This gives Cornwall greater powers over public sector funding ".
The local authority would now be working with partners to develop an integrated health and social care system and deliver significant economic growth for the county.
This would see enhanced business support, greater access to employment and training opportunities, a much improved public transport network and more efficient use of public sector buildings.
The agreement to devolve central funding on local transport would deliver around £50m to create a more integrated public transport system.
This would include smart ticketing – and fares and timetables for combined travel between bus, rail and ferry services.

Rural first as Cornwall gains new powers

Here is a wider-view on the issue:

Cornwall is a logical place to begin with rural devolution, but a coherent UK-wide plan is sorely needed

The Government has announced that the south-west county of Cornwall will be the first rural area in the country to receive powers over elements of public policy, following on from the City-region deals. Joanie Willett argues that Cornwall is a logical place to start owing to its rich cultural history and distinctive identity. However, an ad-hoc approach to the governance of the UK will not do, and a coherent, nationwide plan is urgently required.
Truro Cathedral (Credit: Reading Tom, CC BY 2.0)
Truro Cathedral (Credit: Reading Tom, CC BY 2.0)
The government announced last week that Cornwall is to be the first rural region to receive a devolution deal in this latest round of debate into political decentralisation in the UK.  For a decade since the failed North East Assembly referendum in 2004, devolution to the English regions was completely off the agenda.  Moreover, with the abolition of the regional tier of governance (the Government Offices and the Regional Development Agencies), power became ever more concentrated in central government, and the UK became more firmly one of the most centralised states in Europe.  So what does this devolution deal mean for Cornwall and the UK?  And does it represent a real step-change in British politics?
The Scottish independence referendum was the key which forced a debate about the relationship between the centre and the regions, and brought the English Question back to the agenda.  It also introduced the notion of English Votes for English Laws, and tools to address the power imbalances that have arisen because of the ad-hoc development of the British constitution.
In this kind of discursive environment regions that had wanted some form of decentralisation saw the opportunity to lobby for more powers.  The Local Government Association (LGA) has been recommending that the Local Authorities that it represents and supports take advantage of the window of opportunity and prepare their own representations for decentralisation.  The LGA calls this Devo-Nextand supplies a range of tools to support local councils to put together their decentralisation bids.  Central government is fully behind this agenda, and the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is currently on its third reading.
It is no surprise that Cornwall was a front-runner in this agenda. The region has had a well motivated and vigorous campaign for devolution for decades, which has been particularly vocal in the past 15 years. The last time that devolution was on the UK agenda, Cornwall was deeply disappointed not to have been considered for a regional assembly. Locals launched a petition collecting 50,000 signatures in less than a year, which was a massive achievement for a paper petition, and demonstrated the depth and strength of local support.
The reason for this was twofold. On the one hand, Cornwall is a historic nation, with its own language, flag, and historic traditions. But despite its well-deserved reputation as a fantastic place to visit on holiday, it is also deeply spatially and economically peripheral to the rest of the UK. It remains one of the poorest parts of Britain with the lowest average wages and local contributions to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Demonstrating some of the extremes of inequality in contemporary Britain (one of the wealthiest states in Europe), Cornwall receives European Structural Funding, given to the very poorest regions of the EU. Truro, the capital of Cornwall is a 4 ½ hour train journey from London, compared to the 2 ½ hours that it takes to get from Newcastle to London over a similar distance, and the public service funding formula means that Cornish services routinely receive less per capita than their counterparts elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, in a context of chronic underinvestment, this has led to a widespread feeling that central government neglects and overlooks Cornwall’s problems, the remedy for which is to have political decisions about local issues, made locally. Indeed, a wealth of evidence supports the idea that decisions made locally can be much more responsive to local needs, contexts, and nuances, and for many people in Cornwall, some form of regional devolution is essential if the area is to redevelop its flagging fortunes. Calls for a Cornish Assembly have become so mainstream that even the Local Authority, Cornwall Council, positions itself as a supporter of the agenda.
Cornwall Council began working on its Case for Cornwall in late 2014, and by July 2015 it had been agreed by full Council. The positioning by supporters is that its calls for an integrated transport network, control over all publically owned property in Cornwall (including that owned by the NHS, and the Department for Work and Pensions), and the capacity to develop integrated public health services between the NHS and health and social care, represents an important step in the journey towards a Cornish Assembly. The CFC also calls for a share of certain forms of taxation raised in Cornwall, the ability to make their own decisions about how European structural funding is spent, and a range of measures to improve links between education provided and the needs of local businesses.  But in consultations this was never claimed as devolution, as the headline following governmental approval now proclaims.
This question of whether Cornwall really has received devolution from central government is a fascinating issue of discourse. The CFC was roundly criticised by many supporters of a Cornish Assembly as severely lacking in ambition and falling far short of meaningful devolution. Indeed, no legislative powers have been requested or granted. Instead, devolution here means the ‘freedoms and flexibilities’ to implement central government policy, at a local level. Moreover, the actual ‘devolution deal’ was made before central government had formally received the Case for Cornwall, and is widely recognised as falling a long way short of the proposals in the CFC.
So what does this ‘devolution deal’ mean for Cornwall? Undoubtedly, political decentralisation to the rest of the UK is necessary and over-due, and clearly there is an enormous amount of will on the behalf of the Tory government to deliver what it can call ‘devolution’. However, with extra powers mainly being about making local decisions about the implementation of national policy regarding service delivery, and with a heavy emphasis on efficiency savings, the campaign for a Cornish Assembly clearly still has a long way to go.
Regions, counties, and city regions will of course want (and many already have received) similar powers, but in the UK, we still urgently need a coherently thought through debate on how we would like British politics to work. The relationship between central government, local government, and individual citizens is too important for our democracy to leave it to develop ad-hoc, in response to knee-jerk policies, and as generators of spin.

Cornwall is a logical place to begin with rural devolution, but a coherent UK-wide plan is sorely needed : Democratic Audit UK

And here's a look at how this will affect the South-West:

South west moves on devolution

Councils across the south west are working up plans to win devolved powers from government, in the wake of last week’s announcement that Cornwall is among the next in line for a devolution deal.

Somerset CC leader John Osman (Con) has invited every council in his county to a meeting to discuss devolution, together with those in Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, the unitaries of Cornwall, Wiltshire and the four members of the West of England Partnership: Bristol City Council, Bath & North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council.

Meanwhile, councils in Gloucestershire and the West of England Partnership area have separately been developing their own plans to come together and win devolved powers.

The region has been slow to move on devolution so far, with the exception of Cornwall, which secured backing for its bid for devolved powers in last week’s Budget.

Elsewhere, as LGC revealed last week, Wiltshire has started work on a proposing a similar single county deal, while councils in Dorset plan to form a combined authority.

A Somerset spokesman said: “The meeting has been called to discuss ways of working together and explore if we want to submit one or many bids for devolution.”

The West of England Partnership announced this morning it had launched a review of governance, as a step towards developing a detailed case for devolved powers.

Bristol elected mayor George Ferguson (Ind) and the three council leaders said in a joint statement: “We agree today to undertake a review of governance on how we strengthen our joint working as four unitary authorities, with a view to obtaining devolved powers from the government for the benefit of all our residents.”

They said the review, which is expected to last between nine and 18-months, would look at “the governance structures that would best fit the devolution of certain functions to the four authorities”.

This timescale though would appear to miss that set in Budget papers last week, which said ‘significant’ devolution bids would have to be submitted this autumn “in time for conclusion ahead of the spending review”.

A Bristol spokesman said: “Having the right governance in place is an element of delivering a devolution deal, not negotiating one. It does not preclude a bid and thus there is no conflict on timescales.”

Gloucestershire CC is to prepare a devolution case with the local NHS and police, which could seek more control over social care and health spending, local transport networks, business rates, education, and infrastructure.

It is not yet known if Gloucestershire proposes a combined authority with its districts, or whether councils would accept a directly elected mayor in return for the powers sought.

Gloucestershire said discussions with district councils about what their demands might be had been taking place over the past few months.

Leader Mark Hawthorne (Con) said: “By improving the way government services are run in the county we can improve services for everyone.”

South west moves on devolution | News | Local Government Chronicle

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