The leader of Cornwall Council says she will be pressing the Government to commit to giving Cornwall a £ 360 million investment fund despite dropping plans for an elected mayor. Linda Taylor said that the council would press ahead with securing a “good deal” for Cornwall after deciding to drop plans to get a Level 3 devolution deal which would require a mayor.
Cllr Taylor announced her decision this morning after a public consultation found that 69% of people did not want the council to go ahead with the deal and an elected mayor. The Conservative group leader said that whilst she was disappointed she felt it was important to listen to the people.
The plans for a Level 3 deal included the provision of a £360m investment fund over 30 years as well as £8.7m for brownfield housing developments. But Cllr Taylor said that she would be asking the Government to use Cornwall as a pilot site for such schemes.
She said: “As I said before when the Government approached us last year and asked us to engage with devolution talks I said what was available under a Level 3 deal I believe it was and is a good deal for Cornwall.
“As we started the consultation I got the sense that people liked the deal but what was a concern was the change in governance. I still think it is a good deal but, more importantly, we said we would have a consultation to listen to our residents about what they want.
“While I found there was considerable support for the deal and a mayor from the business community and younger generation, it was clear that that was not shared amongst everyone. We listened and it was a difficult decision but it was most definitely the right action.”
Cllr Taylor said that negotiations with the Government for a new devolution deal had “already started” and will continue after the Easter break. She said that it was hoped that a new proposal could be brought back to be considered by councillors in September.
Asked what she hopes the Government might now offer she said: “I think, like all things, we will hope there will be a happy medium. Cornwall is ambitious, it has a strong leader and strong administration and the Government likes working with people who want good things for their communities. I am confident that we can secure a good deal.”
Commenting on the investment deal and housing funds she said: “We have to accept that the Level 3 deal has the investment fund and the brownfield housing funds and those were only available with a mayor. However, that is not going to stop me from trying to get and hoping to achieve any sum of money that will make a difference to Cornwall. I would hope that the Government might use us as a pilot site for providing these funds.”
With opposition councillors saying that they support devolution for Cornwall Cllr Taylor said she hoped that they would back the council in getting a new deal: “That would be good, at the end of the day we are all elected to represent our communities and ultimately we are elected to make decisions and make a difference for the people we represent.”
Some have questioned the cost of the consultation and process in getting to this point, Cllr Taylor said: “The cost is £60k and part of the discussion on Level 3 is going out to consultation, we went for a longer consultation as I thought it was important to listen to as many people as possible. Some people might say that it was money well spent as it has allowed us to hear their voices and a lot of people will now say their voices were heard. This administration was prepared to listen to what was being said and we have done that.”