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Devolution to Cornwall

Council and Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young MP shaking hands

On 28 November 2023, Cabinet accepted the proposed Level 2 Cornwall Devolution Deal. Cornwall’s new devolution deal delivers greater autonomy. More decisions can be made in Cornwall over areas such as green energy and adult education. Cllr Linda Taylor and Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young MP signed the Deal on 13 December 2023.

The agreed Level 2 Deal has the Council’s priority outcomes at its heart. It includes positive steps for Cornwall across three key areas:

  • Skills: Government devolves the adult education budget from the academic year 2025/26. This gives the Council control over how best to support adult learners. It also helps people have the right skills for the new industries developing in Cornwall.
  • Green energy: Create a Cornwall Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) Commission. This will bring clean energy to the shores of Cornwall and elsewhere quicker.
  • Cornish culture: Cornwall Council can attend meetings of the British-Irish Council. It also includes £500,000 to support Cornish distinctiveness and the Cornish language.

Read the Level 2 Cornwall Devolution Deal 

What is devolution?

Devolution happens when;

  • powers,
  • funding
  • and decisions

which would usually be held, and determined by central government, are transferred to local authorities, such as Cornwall Council.

Why did we negotiate a new devolution deal?

Cornwall was the first rural area of the country to negotiate one of the first devolution deals with Government in 2015.

Cornwall has delivered the deal over the past seven years.  This has brought many benefits to residents and local communities.

Benefits include;

  • better transport
  • investment in skills
  • and exploration of deep geothermal power

You can view these benefits in more detail in the Cornwall Devolution Impact Report.

Read the Cornwall Devolution Deal Impact ReportIn 2021 the Government announced that new devolution deals (so called “County Deals”) would be negotiated with non-metropolitan areas as part of its Levelling Up agenda.

The Government’s intention is to enable places like Cornwall to benefit from the same powers that have already been devolved to metropolitan areas.

In February 2022, the Government published the Levelling Up the United Kingdom white paper.

Read the Levelling up white paper

This set out their plans to reduce regional inequality by 2030. These plans are underpinned by 12 missions.

Mission 12 commits Government to offering devolution deals, at three different levels, to any area that wants one.

As part of commitment, the Government announced that Cornwall would be one of nine county areas invited to develop a devolution deal. In Cornwall’s case, its second deal, to build on the success of the first deal set out in 2015.

What are the principles for devolution set out by Government, and what does this mean for Cornwall?

In the Levelling Up white paper, Government offers areas opportunities to secure;

  • devolved powers
  • funding
  • and influence

based on a ‘devolution framework.’

The following four principles underpin the new ‘devolution framework’. This is set out by Government and will guide the negotiations on all devolution deals in England.

Principle one: Effective leadership

  • The Government firmly believes there are benefits from having a directly elected leader. Who is; prominent and accountable.

Principle two: Sensible geography

  • To access powers, devolution deals should be agreed over a whole county geography. They should have a single institution in place across that geographic footprint.

Principle three: Flexibility

  • The three levels of devolution set out in the framework define a clear and consistent set of pathways to enable deals to be tailored to each area.

Principle four: Appropriate accountability

  • Local leaders and institutions with devolution deals need to be transparent and accountable. Seeking the best value for taxpayer’s money.

Three levels of devolution are available, as set out in the 'devolution framework' (see page 140 of the Levelling Up white paper).

These depend on a specific type of governance model. The powers and investment available range from the highest Level 3, to the lowest Level 1.

  • Level 3 – A single institution or Unitary/County Council with a directly elected leader across a whole county area
  • Level 2 – A single institution or Unitary/County Council without a directly elected leader, across a whole county area
  • Level 1 – Local authorities working together across a whole county area e.g. through a joint committee.

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