Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

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 authorities.

  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.

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