Devolution in action shows how place making in Cornwall is shaping the future

Putting power as close to the community as possible was a key theme during a visit by the Secretary of State for Communities the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP.

Cornwall is the first and only non-metropolitan area to strike a devolution deal with Government, signed in 2015. On the third anniversary of the deal, Mr Brokenshire saw first-hand how powers and funding devolved from Government to Cornwall are helping improve the lives of local people. He met Cornish residents who have benefited from support to grow their businesses and make their homes cheaper to heat under devolution.

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Ultra-localism is a central plank of Mr Brokenshire’s vision for communities. He visited Cornwall to see how Cornwall Council is using the powers devolved from Government – and also devolving power from the Council to local people, under an approach called ‘double devolution’. The Secretary of State met local voluntary groups, town and parish councillors at Par Running Track and St Austell to hear from them how local people are benefiting from the Council’s approach to putting community facilities and services back under local control. The Secretary of State also learnt about the 40 new buses, all equipped with wi-fi and contactless payment, which Cornwall Council has secured using its devolved bus franchising powers.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has a bold and ambitious plan called New Frontiers, which seeks further devolution from Government to help our economy and society flourish beyond Brexit.

Mr Brokenshire met members of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadershp Board to discuss its New Frontiers plan to position Cornwall post-Brexit as a growing economy in global industries such renewable energy, creative and digital technologies, space technology and lithium mining, while safeguarding traditional industries such as agriculture and fishing. New Frontiers would create 28,000 jobs and increase Cornwall’s contribution to the national economy by £2 billion.

Secretary of State for Communities, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said:

“This Government announced a devolution deal for Cornwall three years ago – the first of its kind in England. It heralded the start of a new age of localism, giving people ownership of the places they live.

“I’m delighted to see this deal in action – from the state-of-the-art buses, to the Par Running Track. Through being locally controlled, these have become huge community assets and I congratulate everyone involved for making them such a success.

“Giving power and money back from Whitehall builds stronger communities and devolution will continue to play a large part of ensuring our country’s future success as we build a Britain fit for the future.”

Leader of Cornwall Council and Chair of the Leadership Board for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Adam Paynter said: “Cornwall is living proof that when power and control is devolved to communities, we can deliver better outcomes for people.

“Cornwall Council’s commitment to ‘double devolution’ means we are not just winning devolved powers from Government to Cornwall, but giving powers from the Council to local communities. We are putting hundreds of community assets and services back under local control, working with Cornwall’s fantastic voluntary groups, and town and parish councils.

“The powers Government devolved to Cornwall are enabling the Council and partners to make a real difference to people’s lives – levering in millions of pounds of extra investment to secure a new fleet of buses, make the homes of thousands of vulnerable households cheaper to heat, and support thousands of local businesses to start up and grow on.

“Our New Frontiers plan proposes even more ambitious plans for Cornwall. We believe that the more powers we have in Cornwall, the more we can, collectively, do for Cornwall – making it a better place to live, work and run a business.”

Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP Mark Duddridge said:

“Cornwall’s devolution deal with Government is making a real difference to our region, supporting business growth and the development of our distinctive strengths in sectors such as renewable energy. Building on this strong track record, I hope Government will support our New Frontiers plan which includes piloting a Local Industrial Strategy to unleash the potential of our space and satellite, creative and digital, and other sector strengths to grow Cornwall and the national economy.”

During the visit Mr Brokenshire praised the achievements of the Par Running Track community group. In April 2018, Cornwall Council transferred the management of the running track, football pitches and changing facilities to Par Track Ltd – a Community Benefit Society including local residents and track users. Progress is also underway to further transfer the adjacent skate park for both sites to be run as a single entity.

He also commemorated the achievements of St Austell Town Council. Cornwall Council has worked closely with St Austell on a phased ‘total place’ devolution package for multiple town assets and services – driven by the belief that St Austell is their best long-term custodian and most able to shape services to meet local need.

Beginning in 2016 with the transfer of responsibility for allotments and public conveniences, the town has subsequently taken control of over 20 community sites and services – including 39 areas of public open spaces and play areas, and a major agency agreement that includes responsibility to undertake grounds maintenance and other works for sites such as open and closed churchyards and highways. The most recent phase has also seen transfer of the library, community buildings and two car parks.

During the visit the Secretary of State was briefed on Cornwall Councils’ focus on localism and double devolution, which is giving local communities more influence on say on how money is spent and used in their area, with over 300 initiatives in train from keeping libraries and parks open and running tracks like the one in Par in full use.

This included delivery of key projects under Cornwall’’s first devolution deal:

  • Improvements to Cornwall’s public transport system such as using bus franchising powers devolved from Whitehall to lever £17 million of private investment into the Cornish bus network, delivering contactless payment, smart ticketing, a new 41-strong bus fleet and new mainline railway stock.
  • How the Council secured £7.5 million private investment for the region’s Warm and Well programme, making the homes of 1,300 vulnerable households in Cornwall cheaper to heat every year.
  • Investment in new energy technologies such as deep geothermal energy that could provide - along with marine renewable energy - electricity for thousands of homes, which would see the region become a major energy producing area of the country.
  • The launch of a £40million Business Investment Fund with partners like the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, which will be used to accelerate the growth of local small and medium sized businesses in Cornwall, providing them with loan funding from £25k to £2m.

Story posted 13 July 2018