The Government gives first county devolution deal to Cornwall

Wow, Cornwall will today made history with the Government giving the first ‘county’ devolution deal to Cornwall. The Case for Cornwall has gone from a concept to reality in a short and fast-paced timeframe.

The announcement today, Thursday 16th July of the award of the Cornwall Devolution deal (to give it a name) comes straight off the vote and backing of the Case for Cornwall by the majority of Cornwall Council’s Councillors and the previous to that, the Council’s Cabinet.

The deal, to be signed some time today in Cornwall, includes:

1) Giving Cornwall Council powers for franchising and improving bus services in the area – the first rural unitary authority to gain this power. The plan is for Cornwall Council will take over responsibility for franchising bus services by 2018

2) Gives the Local Enterprise Partnership more say on boosting local skills levels;

3) Gives the council powers to select the projects, working with partners, it wants to see benefiting from millions of pounds of inward investment funding. This will be carried out by Cornwall Council  having intermediate body status – for European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund – which will allow it to select projects from April 2016.

4) Make it easier for the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership to integrate national and local business support services to help local firms grow;

5) Enable Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly to work with local health organisations on a plan for integrating health and social care services.

Of course the other ‘asks’ in areas such as housing, planning, tax related powers are not in this deal – yet.

However, the Government has pledged support Cornwall’s aim to create a low-carbon Enterprise Zone and develop geothermal energy production. And Furthermore, support for the creation of a Cornish Heritage Environment Forum.

No doubt there will be people disappointed with the elements of this deal and the lack of inclusion of such areas like planning and housing. But I really hope this deal is just the first phase, and the Council, with its partners continues to engage with the Government and its civil servants which results in Cornwall gaining more devolved powers.

Devolved powers are now possible due to The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill which is currently passing through Parliament and this Bill puts in place the legal framework across the country that will make it simpler for devolving more powers to more places.

The Cornwall Devolution deal has been made possible due to the very hard work and dedication of officers who have worked to make this deal possible. I would like to thank them publicity for this work. Great work, well done.

As as always the devil is in the detail, but I believe this is a good first-step and Cornwall should be mighty pleased with gaining a hard-fought devolution deal from the Government.

It was nice too for the PM to name check Porthleven in his statement on the deal in the WMN.



Chancellor make a statement on a deal for Cornwall

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, has today during his budget statement made an announcement in reference to Cornwall and its devolution aims:

“and in the first of our new county deals, we are making progress on a major plan to give Cornwall a greater say over local decisions.”

The Leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard has issued the following statement in response to the Chancellor

“As I have stated over the past few months, we have been working with partners to prepare a ‘Case for Cornwall’ which sets out ambitious proposals for greater powers, freedoms, flexibilities and support to be given by the Government to Cornwall.”

“These proposals are designed to allow the people of Cornwall to benefit from an integrated health and social care system, significant economic growth, more affordable homes, greater access to employment and training opportunities, together with a much improved public transport network.”

“As such we welcome today’s positive comments from the Chancellor which set out the Government’s plans to honour its manifesto commitment to devolve far-reaching powers from London to counties and look forward to continuing to work with civil servants to agree a Cornwall Deal which enables the Case for Cornwall proposals to be delivered”

They say a week is a long time in politics, but in this case an hour is a long-time..

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet approves the Case for Cornwall plan

Today Cornwall Council’s Cabinet unanimously approved the documentation and plan for the Case for Cornwall. This plan is ambitious and rightly so, as it is best to be bold in what could be a one-time ask.

The next stop for the case will be at full Council where the full membership of the Council will get a say and vote on the Case for Cornwall. The full documentation can be read HERE.

It will be then over to the Government to approve. There has been lot’s of rumours around this plan, including Health integration, but as yet, nothing has been finally approved (at the time of writing) by the government.



The Case for Cornwall and bold plans for integrating health

The Case for Cornwall is an ambitious plan with many aspects to it. Some will say too ambitious, but I believe it is best to ask for as much as you which will have a positive affect on residents, rather than some sort of half-hearted ask. It is not just an ask for Cornwall Council, but for all the health organisation in Cornwall.

One of the areas for the Case for Cornwall is on Health integration across the spectrum. It is not an easy ask, as there is eight different health organisations in Cornwall who deliver these health services. Those who deliver health services believe integration is to the best way forward. Out of these eight, three commission services in Cornwall. These are Cornwall Council, NHS England and NHS Kernow.

However, wanting to deliver integrated health service is easier said than done. A few reasons for this is because all the eight different providers all have different legal, governance, data capture systems and financial structures. So trying to overcome these is difficult without changes to legislation. There are also cultural differences between the organisations which will also need to be addressed.

These asks are:

  1. Support in developing a devolved ring-fenced place-based health & social care budget with a minimum five-year settlement;
  2. Local ownership and control of assets. (Please see the ‘property’ theme in the Case for Cornwall document for detail related to this ask);
  3. Delegated authority for commissioning of primary care GP Services with the opportunity to explore future delegation of other services important in our community model, e.g. pharmacy, optometry and dental services; and
  4. Government to consider a review of the funding allocation formula for Cornwall to ensure it matches the actual needs profile of our population.

The Case or Cornwall would also like to work with Central Government to explore two opportunities for greater local influence:

  • To influence design of a single framework for measuring the impact that health and social care services have on the health and well-being of a local population (‘a single outcomes framework’)
  • To influence how multiple regulators might develop a coordinated approach to a place in order to enable efficient and effective collaboration.

Of course if the government agrees to these plans, this integration will not happen overnight, or even in a year or two. As if the government agrees, these ambitious plans will take five-years to implement.

To support this the Council is also seeking transformation funding which is addressed below in the section on Managing the transformation. £2m per annum over the five-year period will provide vital programme delivery resource whilst maintaining business as usual.

Why are we asking for this? There are many reason, but a few are:

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have a total population of 545,335 (as of 2014). The population of Cornwall contains more residents over the age of 75 than the average for England with rates in the upper quartile of all local authorities across England and Wales.

The number of those aged 75+ is set to grow significantly and very quickly with a 32% increase by 2024. It is the group most at risk of multiple long-term conditions. If there is no change to current practice, numbers in the 75+ age group will exceed our capacity across health and social care to provide care for them. Family and friends providing care are also growing older.

We have some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the country. In Cornwall, one in ten live in the 20% most deprived areas in England. These areas are home to 53,000 people. 15,100 children (under 16) live in poverty, 22.8% households are in fuel poverty and more than 30,000 people are on health related benefits. People in our disadvantaged communities are at higher risk of living with at least one debilitating condition and for more of their lives. Of those claiming Employment Support Allowance and incapacity benefits 46% report a mental health problem as their primary diagnosis

Children under 19 living in poverty in Cornwall stands at 17.6% and is ranked 8 out of 20 of south-west region councils. Poverty matters and has a major impact on the health and wellbeing of our population both in the short and long-term. (I will be doing a separate blog post on children in poverty)

Cornwall experiences low wages and seasonal employment. Cornwall has the second weakest economy in the country – earnings were 19% below the national average in 2011. Cornwall also has unique challenges.

Most businesses are small, around 14% of the working age population is self-employed compared to a national average of 9% and the skills profile in Cornwall continues to be weak despite improvements

A Cost of Living analysis for Cornwall shows that there are a number of higher costs for the average household in Cornwall compared to the national average or to other parts of the UK – this includes water & sewerage charges, costs of energy & transport fuels & mortgages. Costs of living in Cornwall are set in the context of lower than average annual earnings & higher than average house prices.

All these and more, have an effect on health, and this is why having an integrated health system in Cornwall will result in better provision, and less money being spent on different organisational structures.

Is the plan bold, yes. Is the detail finalised, no. But one thing is for sure, this is the right thing to do. You can read more about the plan HERE.

These plan will be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting on the 8th July. The meeting starts at 10am and is webcast.

The Case for Cornwall and more powers

Should Cornwall Council be given the opportunity to take on more responsibility which are currently administered in London? The Council thinks so, and has compiled a document called the Case for Cornwall to allow the Council to engage with the Government and start a conversation on devolution.

In the Case for Cornwall document, it sets the scene and how the Council would like to discuss the certain options. Of course all this depends on if the Government is listening and is really serious about devolution.  The report to the Council is HERE; the Case for Cornwall document HERE; and the options are HERE.

For those who are thinking why there is no mention of an Assembly is because this document sets the scene and is a building block, rather than the ‘hey, we want it all and our own self-governing body.’ There is no merit of going in ‘All Choughs Blazing’  and getting the document dismissed quickly and thrown in the bin, the Case for Cornwall explains in a measured way what Cornwall could do. Does the document cover everything? No, but it is a damn good starting point.

Of course, the Council is a democratic body, and if the Council voted to have the proposals for an Assembly included, it could. However, after a passionate amendment from Mebyon Kernow (MK) who called for the idea of an Assembly being included in the document, a vote was taken with 14 people supporting the MK amendment. There were two other amendments from the Tory’s and Labour. These were both lost, with 22 people supporting the Tory amendment and (I counted) eight supporting the Labour amendment.  Finally a vote was taken on the Case for Cornwall and the vast majority of the Council supported the proposals.

As I said before, all these proposals rest on the Governments willingness to engage with Cornwall Council. We in Cornwall also have to be realistic that Cornwall is not the only area asking for more devolution and powers. I do also understand the Government will have a tricky path to navigate on this whole issue as it cannot be seen as giving too much to one and not enough to other areas. And of course, the whole devolution agenda could dramatically change (both positive and negatively) post the General Election in May.

I guess we play the wait and see game.