Memorandum by Mr Conan Jenkin (RG 23)
1. We believe that regional government will
be beneficial to communities across the United Kingdom and that
it will allow for increased accountability of decision-making
by bringing it closer to the public and the potential to simplify
existing government arrangements by focusing decision-making on
areas of natural governance.
2. However for any democratic organisation
to have validity, maintain the confidence of communities and have
their support it must be a recognisable region. Part of the problems
associated with the North East referendum was that the geography
did not reflect community ties, aspirations and identities.
3. The present South West region will never
have the support of the public. Its sheer size makes it unwieldy
and unrecognisable to anyone except some civil servants in the
confines of Whitehall. With the largest population (eight million+)
of any of the proposed regions outside of London. It covers a
substantial land mass (the distance from end to end is as far
as the distance from London to the Scottish Borders). It simply
is too large and unmanageable to provide effective strategic decision
making for those communities.
4. It is worth noting that this region is
bigger in everyway than Wales and has worse communication links.
It is bigger than many economically successful European States
like the Republic of Ireland. There is no realistic possibility
that that this behemoth will be a flexible, modern and successful
region in the future competing with other European regions. In
simple terms it will be unable to reflect the wide ranging and
differing needs of communities within this huge geographic area.
5. Therefore, we believe that there is much
potential to devolve powers from this level to a more sustainable
and local regional level. The European Union is a good guide to
regional government. Within the EU there is a range of regional
arrangements which reflect natural communities and are of quite
varying size. We believe that there is great potential for identifying
new regions with which communities naturally identify with. The
proposal for the establishment of city regions would be a much
more pragmatic and practical proposal with which communities will
be able to identify with.
6. In the far South West the establishment
of city regions is unpractical due to the lack of suitable candidates.
However, there is a long established region with a distinct culture,
identity and history. It is a region which has distinct economic
problems, the only region in the south of the UK to have Objective
One status. Although small with a population of 520,000 it has
a natural coherence shaped by its peninsula geography and its
status as one of the historic nations of the United Kingdom. This
region is Cornwall.
7. Cornwall desperately needs a new democratic
renewal to simplify existing local government arrangements and
provide a strategic body that can effectively implement policies
to address its substantial economic ills. This would better allow
the managing of services, making them more economic and efficient
and ensure that the half a million people who exist on the peninsula
have better and more effective governance.
8. Cornwall is clearly not an island but
for most strategic and economic purposes it is. Having only a
few miles of land and several bridges connecting it to its neighbouring
region will ensure that it would never benefit from any larger
regional structure. When appropriate, it is certainly desirable
to have closer inter-regional cooperation to tackle economic disparities.
In the context of the regions within the south west this would
certainly be true of transport infrastructure. Clearly an improvement
to transport infrastructure in Devon, Somerset and Dorset could
be of benefit to people in the region of Cornwall. Other south
western regional activities would largely be and are irrelevant
to the communities within Cornwall.
9. We would therefore recommend that the
Government establish a regional assembly for the communities of
Cornwall which will be mandated to reform local government and
replace the current three-tier system with more efficient unitary
10. We believe that this will reflect an
alternative rural solution to the concept of city regions and
will reflect the natural affinities and therefore support of the
communities within the south west. On numerous occasions communities
in Cornwall have demonstrated there support for a strategic democratic
body that is responsible for the region of Cornwall. Not least
a petition of over 50,000 signatures which was lodged with the
prime minister. We believe it is incumbent on all democrats to
take into account such strength of feeling expressed by individuals
within a region.