THE leader of Cornwall Council says that a devolution deal approved by cabinet on Tuesday, November 28, is the “first step” in the Duchy having more power over its own affairs.
The level two deal will allow Cornwall greater autonomy over areas including green energy and adult education, while plans for a cross-party White Paper for Cornwall, setting out the authority’s ambitions for further dialogue with future governments, was also approved.
The extraordinary cabinet meeting, called at short notice after the proposed devolution deal was announced by the chancellor in last week’s Autumn Statement, took place in Truro following a meeting of the full council. The new devolution deal had been negotiated following the decision earlier this year not to pursue a level three deal, which proved largely unpopular with residents of the county due to the inclusion of a directly elected mayor for Cornwall.
The new deal includes:
- Westminster fully devolving the adult education budget of around £10-million a year from 2025, giving the council control over how best to support adult learners, so it can make sure people have the right skills for the new industries developing in Cornwall, including those in the net zero economy. A Free Courses for Jobs scheme worth £700,000 per year has also been agreed with £467,000 of funding to support the implementation of the devolved responsibilities.
- The creation of a Cornwall Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) Commission to bring clean energy to the shores of Cornwall and elsewhere quicker, enabling Cornwall to contribute to the delivery of the UK’s targets for renewable generation.
- The deal means Cornwall Council will be able to attend meetings of the British-Irish Council alongside the UK government as an advisor on matters relating to the Cornish language. It also includes a further £500,000 to support Cornish distinctiveness and the Cornish language. Details of how that money will be rolled out will be revealed in the next few weeks.
The plan was approved unanimously by Cabinet following a discussion and questions from fellow councillors. Cllr Dick Cole – leader of the devolutionist Cornish party Mebyon Kernow – commended the council’s Conservative leader Cllr Linda Taylor on the efforts the authority has made in securing funding and support for the Cornish language and culture.
However, he added: “This is local government accommodation rather than a Celtic-style devolution deal.”
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Taylor said: “This is the first step in more devolved powers for Cornwall. We are being clear, this is part of an ongoing process, and we want to see more autonomy being handed to Cornwall. I am determined this will be a cross-party effort, it is important that we hear from everyone in developing and laying out our future ambitions.
“The new deal gives us further powers to develop the skills we need to take advantage of the new industries we are developing, as well as the opportunity to help shape national policy in vital areas such as floating offshore wind power.
“It also brings greater protections for our unique heritage and language, and gives us a voice on the British-Irish Council, which we have been calling for.”