Cornwall Council has taken a large step to ask Westminster and the civil service to give the Council for more powers that will enable the Council to make our own decision for the benefit of Cornwall’s residents; not by those who do not understand, or even do not want to understand what the residents of Cornwall need.
Cornwall is faced with four fundamental challenges: our population is changing and growing; our economy is still underperforming in some areas; our geography and settlement pattern places strain on the public purse; and the cost of living is increasing inequality. It is one reason having a clear strategy is so important, and the Case for Cornwall supports the aims of the strategy.
The case is simple, give the local authority more decision-making powers, and the ability to set its own rate of taxes, including business and council tax. This does not mean taxes will automatically rise, but if residents wanted enhanced services or new services, then they will have to be paid for. I know people have said to me they would not mind paying a little more if it guaranteed services. I know I would. This document is about have the decision-making powers in Cornwall, not London or heaven save us, some sort of regional administration body.
The Case for Cornwall is not perfect, but it is a collective step forward in asking for more decision-making powers for Cornwall. it is a document that will adapt, but has strong anchor points that will give a steady platform to work from. It has been politically backed in Cornwall – though at varying degrees – by the Full Council at Cornwall Council.
So what are we asking for? The proposals set out in the Case for Cornwall document include:
Public transport and connectivity –Enable Cornwall to provide a fully integrated and more effective rural public transport network including additional powers to decentralise bus regulation. Allow Cornwall to create a Better Roads Fund funded by the localisation of 2p in every litre from existing fuel duty by retaining a fraction of fuel duty to maintain Cornwall’s roads. If we retained this 2p, it raise £7.5 million a year that would be used to maintain our rural roads. You may not know this, but Cornwall Council maintains and repairs over 7000 km of road network excluding the A30 and A38 which are maintained by the Highways Agency.
Housing – devolution of powers and land holdings from the Homes and Communities Agency, working with the Government to identify ways of managing the number of second homes and retaining Stamp Duty to build affordable housing. If Cornwall was allowed to retain an element of Stamp Duty to reinvest in building more affordable housing. However, we would need to secure a ten-year funding commitment to establish an ambitious affordable and social housing programme, financed in part by retaining a proportion of the increasing amount of Stamp Duty generated from escalating house prices in Cornwall
Health and social care – working with the Government to integrate health and social care. Our plans would commit to working with Cornwall’s health and social care community to achieve health and social care integration. If the Government can do it for Manchester, then why not Cornwall?
Energy – Energy: greater control over the development of electrical grid. Grid capacity is currently a significant constraint to further decentralised energy generation in Cornwall. We want the Government to provide us with the ability to control grid investment in Cornwall. We must also unlock the potential for geothermal energy. Cornwall provides the opportunity to be a national pilot for development of the UK’s deep geothermal industry. Co-investment from Government would realise the opportunity to access the significant renewable energy that is under our very feet, contributing to the national renewables targets. For instance, two geothermal companies already have planning permission for two sites in Cornwall; both are ready to begin drilling if sufficient funding can be secured.
How will this benefit local residents and businesses? The following are just some of the benefits the residents of Cornwall could have if given greater powers:
- Better public transport services and links
- Better road maintenance
- Better health from warmer homes
- More affordable houses for local people
- More jobs and job opportunities
- Better education, social and business connections through superfast broadband / rural internet
- Better health and social care
- Emergency services working more closely together
- Better flood resilience
As I said early, this is just the first steps for greater decision-making powers that are made in Cornwall for the benefit of Cornwall. These , but not exclusively may include:
Piloting the first rural earn back model in Cornwall. We want to work with the Government to develop a mechanism for Cornwall to retain an element of the uplift in tax yields and reduction in welfare payments arising from a significant level of public sector investment in Cornwall’s infrastructure. The reward mechanism would provide an added incentive to grow and sustain Cornwall’s economy, contributing to the overall prosperity of the UK through increased tax revenue and greater spending power. The ‘earnback’ would also be a direct incentive to reduce worklessness in Cornwall, with the associated reductions in the cost to Government of welfare benefits.
Enable Cornwall to pilot greater freedoms and control over council tax. We want the freedom to work with our local communities to establish an appropriate level of council tax without the imposition of a costly referendum which simply further diverts funding from service delivery – our town and parish councils need the same. We also want the ability to develop localised council tax rules which enable us to target discounts to the most vulnerable, rather than blanket discounts which bear no connection to people’s ability to pay.
Allow Cornwall to retain and re-invest a quarter of all VAT generated by our tourism industry. Cornwall is the UK’s favourite holiday region, winning the British Travel Awards for six years in a row, with an estimated 4.4 million staying visitors staying an average of 26 million nights annually. Given the importance of the sector to the UK economy and particular Cornwall’s economy, there is a strong argument for Cornwall to retain a quarter of the existing VAT payable to reinvest in the ‘tourism product’. Parallels can be drawn with the Government’s recent agreement to allow Manchester and Cambridgeshire to retain all their business rates.
Transfer English Heritage powers and resources to enable us to have greater local control over our heritage assets. Cornwall Council is responsible for the appropriate care of the largest collection of designated sites and structures in the direct ownership of any local authority. Approximately 5% of Cornwall is a World Heritage Site. We want to explore opportunities to increase local powers and resources to address anomalies in defining heritage significance, streamline planning processes and maximise opportunities to integrate heritage into social and economic regeneration.
Enable a programme of housing delivery through revitalised use of Urban Development Corporation powers. Cornwall faces a growing demand for affordable homes to rent, substantially fuelled by high property prices and low wage levels. Over 50% of the current private rented stock fails to meet decent homes standards, despite strong regulatory action and £103m of public subsidy through housing benefit payments. We want to intervene and develop a new model of housing delivery that provides homes with high standards of design, layout, livability and low energy costs.
The Case for Cornwall is an ambitious plan, but it a plan worth fighting for. However, Cornwall Council cannot do it alone, as it needs the people of Cornwall to support. You can show this support by pledging their support by joining the #standupforcornwall campaign on social media by following us on Twitter @CaseforCornwall using #standupforcornwall or on the Case for Cornwall Facebook page .
Furthermore, details of the Case for Cornwall are available on the Council’s website – www.cornwall.gov.uk/standup where members of the public can pledge their support. Copies of the Case for Cornwall document will also be available in libraries and one stop shops where people can also pledge their support.
Let’s together #standupforcornwall and support the #case4cornwall that will allow for greater decision making powers for Cornwall in Cornwall.
If you want to support, why not do a #standupforcornwall selfie and get this trending on social media!