A public survey on whether there should be a Mayor for Cornwall has resulted in a resounding “no” with more than two-thirds of people opposed to the idea. The results of Cornwall Council’s consultation on the proposed Cornwall Devolution Deal and Mayor for Cornwall have been published tonight ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet next week.
The public consultation questionnaire received 6,105 responses with 69% of respondents saying they did not think that Cornwall should accept the devolution deal and change its governance to have a directly elected Mayor.
Under the deal, which has been heavily pushed by the Conservative administration at New County Hall, Cornwall would get some new powers devolved from Westminster along with around £390million of extra funding. However, critics have said that the requirement to have a directly elected Mayor would not be right for Cornwall saying it would place too much power with one individual and they highlight that £360m of the new funding would be delivered over 30 years and so is only worth £12m a year.
The result of the public survey will be a major blow to leaders at Cornwall Council who have been hailing the proposals as “a big deal for Cornwall” and saying that it would boost the county.
However, the report going to Cabinet also highlights another survey which the council commissioned to be carried out about the proposals with interviews undertaken with 1,102 people from across Cornwall face to face and on the telephone.
This came up with the complete opposite result of the wider survey with 65% saying they thought Cornwall should accept the deal and have a Mayor for Cornwall and just 16% saying they disagree.
The report argues that the survey carried out with the smaller sample group is more reliable and states that there is a 95% confidence level and a confidence interval of 3%. This means that if the survey was undertaken with every resident of Cornwall there is a 95% likelihood that the answers would be within 3% of the results of the survey.
Cabinet members will meet on Wednesday (Apr5) to consider the results and decide how they should go forward. Their recommendations will then be considered by full council when it meets on April 18.
At that meeting councillors will be asked to decide whether they want a full referendum to be held to allow all residents in Cornwall to have their say on whether there should be an elected Mayor and that the council accepts the devolution deal.
The report going to Cabinet explains that there are two options for how that referendum would be carried out – one would see a normal poll undertaken with ballot cards sent out to registered voters who can then vote at polling stations or by postal vote. It states that this could cost around £970,000.
Alternatively the council could hold a referendum which would see letters sent to registered electors in Cornwall with a unique code allowing them to give their view through an online poll or by post. This would cost £366,000.
Councillors from various parties have been calling for a full referendum to give people the chance to have their say on how Cornwall Council should be run. However, the report states that the timing of the referendum could cause issues, saying that if approved it would likely to be held in September or October which could disrupt the timetable should the council accept the deal and agree to a change in governance model.
If the council does accept the deal then the first elections for a Mayor for Cornwall would be in May 2024. That Mayor would take control of the council and would select a Cabinet of councillors to serve under them.
Responding to the survey results council leader Linda Taylor, who has indicated clear support for the deal, 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 April 18.”
The extraordinary Cabinet meeting will be held at 10am next Wednesday (April5) at New County Hall in Truro and will also be webcast live on the council website.