'Cornwall Deal' could give devolved power to the county
The Government is in talks to hand powers down to Cornwall as part of its promise to empower local communities, the Western Morning News has learned.
MPs and councillors from Cornwall met Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is leading the drive to move power out of London, before Parliament's summer break.
Mr Clegg was urged to back a "Cornwall Deal", giving the region more clout to implement polices over housing, health and economic development, as well as more funding to carry out any new role.
The principle has already been established through "City Deals", which have been awarded to Manchester, Leeds and Bristol among other areas taking over from London decision makers.
Cornwall is unlikely to be included in a second wave of deals to devolve power as the policy has been designed for urban authorities. But advocates on the peninsula believe they have established a "dialogue" for Cornwall to pioneer the concept for rural areas.
Those who attended the meeting have told the WMN that officials in the Government's Cabinet Office have been tasked to work with organisations in Cornwall to help them draw up initial proposals. The council, NHS and enterprise partnership in Cornwall are all closely involved.
Details emerged against the backdrop of a furious row over Conservative calls to reject the campaign for a Cornish Assembly – a devolved administration akin to governments in Scotland and Wales. But talks over a "Cornwall Deal" are unlikely to involve full-blown devolution coveted by Cornish nationalists
The meeting with Mr Clegg included representatives from Cornwall Council, the Cornish Constitutional Convention and three Cornwall MPs.
Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, presented the Deputy Prime Minister a dossier entitled A Duchy Deal? Powers to build affordable homes, pool all funding and expertise to create jobs and combining NHS, social care and welfare budgets under an "integrated" health service are among the ideas being floated.
A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said: "Rebalancing the economy is one of the Deputy Prime Minister's key priorities in government – that's why he pioneered the city deals, of which wave two will be announced in due course.
"He is also extremely keen to address the particular challenges faced by rural economies and that's why he met a group of MPs and councillors from Cornwall to discuss the issue."
When proposals emerge, they will need approval from all major public bodies in Cornwall. One natural deadline is Cornwall Council elections in May.
Mr George said: "Cornwall should have a greater say on those things that affect Cornwall. That's all. There's nothing sinister about it."
Sarah Newton, Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth, who was also at the meeting, said: "Are we going to get better public services, will it be value for money, will it create more jobs? I believe we need to satisfy these things if we are to have decision-making in Cornwall rather than Whitehall."