The results of the ten-week public consultation regarding Cornwall’s devolution deal proposed by the UK government have seen a variety of responses from members of the public and key stakeholders.
In 2021, the government announced that new devolution deals, now known as “County Deals”, would be on the table in future as part of its Levelling Up agenda.
In February last year, the government released the “Levelling Up the United Kingdom” white paper, which set out their plans to reduce regional inequality by 2030 though 12 mission commitments.
These 12 missions include, raising “pay, employment and productivity in every area of the UK”, making sure “local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London”, “the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed” and “renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas” as well as improvements in policing, broadband speeds, and education.
However, one of the most important aspects for our area is the final of the 12 missions, which states “By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.”
A devolution deal was offered to Cornwall, which included £360 million in funding across 30 years. Following the announcement of the deal and the specifics of what was being offered to the county, a Cornwall Council spokespersonexplained the ways in which this deal could make a difference within Cornwall: “It could make a big difference to Cornwall, enabling the Council to: target much needed funding and resources to our own priorities; attract and keep new and key businesses and sectors; invest in the skills we know we need; unlock housing and employment sites; increase our contribution to the UK economy and raise our profile nationally, enabling our voice to be heard by Government and help shape future policies.
“Cornwall could benefit from millions of pounds of additional investment each year plus more certainty and control over longer term funding through: a 30 year multi-million pound Cornwall Investment Fund, with an agreed annual allocation, multi-year transport funding; control of local development on brownfield sites; design and delivery of employment projects.”
Despite these potential benefits, councillors across the county remained very critical of the deal due to one aspect; the proposal that Cornwall introduce a mayor. And following results of the public consultation, this is something which is common among residents as well as councillors.
The consultation process itself was wide ranging, with over 5,000 people engaged in 82 separate engagement events both online and face to face and including 14 town hall meetings across Cornwall, visits to markets, warm hubs, mobile library outreach, engagement with the Youth Council and students at Cornwall’s higher and further education organisations.
Two separate types of surveys were undertaken which asked the same questions: one was an open ‘consultation questionnaire’ which was available online and via hard copy to all residents.
The second was a ‘representative survey’, undertaken by independent survey experts which guarantee a sample of public opinion from a cross-section of the whole population which reflects the proportions of gender and age group in each geographical area.
The headline results of each of the surveys look quite different, however in the detail, there were significant similarities.
The headline difference saw the open consultation survey receive 6,105 responses, with 69% of those against the deal with a mayor and 25% in favour. The representative survey saw 65% of responses in favour of the deal and mayor, with just 16% against.
The full report on the consultation results will be available to read in the papers published ahead of Cornwall Council’s meeting next week (April 5).
Cllr Linda Taylor, leader of Cornwall Council, said: “Firstly I want to say thank you to everyone who took part in this comprehensive consultation.
“It is clear from these results that those who are opposed to the deal and the introduction of a mayor feel very strongly on the issue.
“However, we know that most people want more decisions about Cornwall to be made in Cornwall, and the 'silent majority' seems, on balance, to favour the deal, including an elected mayor.
“It has also been interesting to see such a positive response from the younger generation and such strong support from businesses and our strategic partners.
“These findings will shape a very interesting discussion at next week’s Cabinet meeting and at the subsequent Full Council on 18 April.”