Memorandum by Cornwall County Council
1. Cornwall County Council welcomes the
opportunity to contribute to this important debate about the future
of regional governance. Cornwall "displays many of the strengths
of a natural regions1" and with its experience in creating
strong partnerships and organising and managing a successful Objective
One Programme, offers a model for dynamic "empowered governance"
for a peripheral region. Cornwall values the views of the public
in shaping the delivery of public services and believes that a
new approach, based on devolving powers and responsibilities will
improve overall effectiveness.
2. The existing arrangement of regional
and local government is deeply flawed. The regional tier lacks
democratic accountability and resonance with community identity.
The structure of local government with its mix of unitary and
two tier Councils is complex, confusing and inefficient. Integration
with other public services (eg the health sector) is difficult
in the present arrangements but is vital to cost effective service
delivery and the promotion of social inclusion.
3. The attempt to introduce democratically
elected regional bodies in the North East was unsuccessful because
what was on offer failed to excite the electorate and whose costs
appeared to outweigh the limited benefits. In addition, the standard
regional model appeared remote to localities.
4. The moment has come therefore to consider
new and more radical models of governanceempowering local
communities with strong collective identity to achieve national,
regional and local objectives in a more effective wayachieving
greater social cohesion, reducing dependency and driving forward
productivity and competitiveness.
5. This paper sets out the inadequacies
of the present arrangements,identifies principles for achieving
devolved local governance and proposesan alternative model based
on the strengths of Cornwall as a naturalregion.
6. The present standard regional model fails
in a number of fundamentalrespects. Critically there is growing
public concern that the Government'sagenda of developing regional
structures and initiatives is not matched by a transparent democratic
dimension. Public opposition to and disenchantment with regional
structures could undermine the Government's objective to ensure
that all parts of the UK contribute to the well being of the country
as a whole. Further, Government policy is of tenurban focussed
and the need to consider effective delivery of public services
in rural areas may be overlooked.
7. In the South West the present South West
Regional Assembly (SWRA)does not have popular support. It is perceived
as too far removed fromlocal issues and difficult to influence.
The SWRA is not a statutory body; rather, as currently constituted,
it is an unincorporated local authorityassociation which has invited
representatives from social and economic partners to join in its
deliberations and which has certain statutory responsibilities.
This gives rise to concerns about the way it is governedand potential
liabilities on its constituent members.
8. Since the formation of the SWRA in 2000,
the Government has set out anagenda which increases the powers
of Regional Assemblies to influenceand direct resources. These
include the responsibilities for preparing Regional Spatial Strategies,
incorporating the Regional Housing Boardwithin the Assembly and
influence in the Regional Funding Allocation processes which directs
funding for transport, housing and economic development. At the
same time we have seen the growth of Regional Development Agencies
which are now accountable to Regional Assemblies while performing
tasks that actually relate to local regeneration.
9. However the current powers of the Assemblies
are based on the earlier,but now abandoned proposition that they
would become fully elected bodies. In the absence of this there
is a significant democratic deficit. This is not sustainable and
raises fundamental questions about the ability of such institutions,
which affect such large and diverse areas, to gain support and
influence over the many communities within the Region.
10. Of particular concern is the role of
members appointed to the Assembly. Two thirds are elected members
appointed by the Councils in the regionplus a system of "topping
up" by the political leadership. Members have confusing and
conflicting roles. The Assembly see these members as adopting
a "regional" role. The Councils see them as representing
their individual interests.
11. The remaining third of the membership
of the Regional Assembly comprises Social Economic and Environmental
Partners [SEEPs] appointedby the Assembly for their particular
role within the region. These are seen by elected members as having
a narrow sectoral interest with no democratic mandate.
13. Cornwall County Council proposes that
the following principles should be examined in considering the
case for regional devolution:
(a) "identity of place"regions
should have a sense of identity; particular characteristics which
give a sense of belonging and a rational for collective planning
and governance based on proactive community consultation. These
may be a mix of geographical, economic,environmental, historical
and cultural factors. A strong regionalidentity can be used as
a "brand" to assist marketing and improveeconomic competitiveness
and to provide a motivational force;
not as important as "place", size matters becauseregions
should be viable in terms of delivering services etc;
(c) "adding value"regional
governance should "add value" to existing structures
and systems, driving productivity and social progress; reducing
dependency, increasing self sufficiency and contributing to overall
national well being;
(d) "demand"regional governance
should be demonstrated to have positive support;
(e) "fit"ie within a national
framework with a clear and mature relationship with other regions;
and with other public sector organisations within Cornwall (eg
(f) "capacity to deliver"enabled
and empowered to deliver national, regional and local objectives;
(g) that the geographical basis on which
such devolution should occur should be mirrored through a wide
range of public sector, services, unified structures and services
in a common geography. The case for Cornwall and the Isles of
14. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are
distinctive. Their geography,peripherality, environment and culture
contribute to a strong sense of place and identity. This distinctiveness
is reinforced by differences in the economic circumstances and
settlement pattern with the rest of the South West. The economy
in terms of GVA and wage levels is clearly poorer than other parts
of the South West and the UK. These circumstances have led to
the whole of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly being identified
as an Objective 1 area for European funding. Cornwall is grateful
to theGovernment that, after 2006, it will become a Convergence
Region for European structural funds, and will be identified as
such in the UK National Strategic Reference Framework.
15. Population and employment is widely
dispersed across a range ofsettlements. Cornwall has a close relationship
with the Isles of Scilly providing the vital transport links.
The largest neighbouring city, Plymouth, has an influence relatively
confined to a part of South East Cornwall.
16. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is
to a considerable extent self-contained in the way it functions,
as witnessed by recent studies of functionality at both the regional
and local level. Its connections and inter relationships with
other parts of the region are not strong. This narrows the scope
and type of policy measures at a regional level that can be effectivefor
example the approach to housing and employment development in
other parts of the wider South West can have relatively little
influence on levels and distribution of development in Cornwall.
17. This does not represent an isolationist
view of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly within the wider South
West region or beyond; indeed it is the opposite. The links between
Plymouth and parts of South East Cornwall are recognised and have
been dealt with in joint studies. Strategic policy issues which
cross boundaries can be dealt with by a continuation of effective
joint working. Further, Cornwall recognises the importance of
strategic links across the Region and the importance of "connectivity"
between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the rest of the Region,
the UK and the world to its future prosperity. This is reflected
in the County'soverarching long-term transport strategy ("Connecting
Cornwall-Regeneration through Better Communication") and
the vital role of Cornwall Newquay Airport.
18. The peripherality of Cornwall and the
Isles of Scilly cannot be overcome but it can be managed. Modern
communication, for instance, is contributing to economic regeneration.
This is attracting a different approach to business and is changing
the factors which affectcompetitiveness. It is important for central
institutions to recognise thatan intelligent approach to managing
a peripheral region will involve astrong degree of local autonomy
set within the strategic framework ofachieving Government outcomes.
Cornwall has pioneered the use ofcommunications technology to
enable economic success and lessen the impact of peripherality.
Further, the development of environmental technologies and supporting
infrastructure and "know-how" can have apositive influence
on economic success and energy supply way beyond Cornwall.
19. Finally the work underpinning the South
West Region's approach to Sustainable Communities as set out in
the document "The Way Ahead"2 reinforces the need to
focus on Cornwall as a key priority for regeneration if the objective
of addressing regional disparity is to be met3. . . Effectivere
generation requires community enthusiasm through identity. Good
examples include St Just in Pen with where the renaissance of
the Cornish Mining heritage into cultural, physical and community
capital has transformed the local economy.
CORNWALL: A PROPOSAL
20. The County Council believes that public
sector delivery and strategy shouldbe reformed to result in a
single body to provide a strategic overview for the governance
of Cornwall and would be most effective if responsibilities from
both central and existing regional government were directed to
it. Such a devolved approach would seek to bring the wider public
sector service delivery under the strategic management of a directly
elected body with service delivery undertaken at a community level.
This would bring about the most effective deployment of UK government,
European and local funding.
21. The model of devolved "regional"
governance for Cornwall under a singlestrategic body would achieve
the following goals:
stronger strategic leadership
greater ability for neighbourhoods
to set local priorities and influence decisions
more accountable local scrutiny
the delivery of better and more cost
become more "customer"
22. The evidence for reducing costs and
increasing effectiveness is powerful. In its evidence to the Boundary
Commission in 2004 the County Council's Network argued the case
for unitary counties on the basis of research looking at both
transitional and ongoing savings on costs. Further, that larger
strategic authorities can demonstrate considerable benefits in
economies of scale. The benefits of a single strategic authority
for Cornwall would be:
A single body covering Cornwall would
have the organisational capacity to deal with new or unexpected
challenges. The experience of dealing with the requirements of
Best Value, political modernisation, the Comprehensive Performance
Assessment process and the Gershon efficiency targets are evidence
Performance monitoring and inspection
A single body would produce savings in the inspection
of local government and its servicesthrough the adoption
of standard accounting, IT systems and monitoring across the public
Provision of specialist services
Strategic authorities are better placed to operate
and maintain specialist services.
Attracting and retaining quality staff
A single body would be of a scale able to offer
career paths for professional, administrative, technical, operational
and managerial staff making stronger cumulative impact on the
economy of Cornwall. Further, it would be able to invest in training
and development programmes which ensure on going investment in
staff at all levels.
Purchasing power and procurement arrangements
A single body would have economies of scale which
give them greater purchasing power. This capability not only enables
them to secure economies and efficiency in purchasing, but also
gives them capacity to act as effective clients for contracted
Avoiding the need for joint arrangements
A single body would be able to sustain specialist
functions without the need for joint arrangements.
Flexibility, responsiveness and enhanced customer
Issues affecting local communities are best dealt
with by cross border or joint working. A single body would be
able to work across boundaries and enable flexible deployment
of resources and expertise to tackle problems wherever they occur.
It would be more customer focussed and would reduce confusion
in the eyes of customers of who is responsible for services.
Engaging with the other strategic players
A single body would have greater capacity to
operate inter-regionally and develop and manage external relationships
and partnerships. A singlebody would have greater capacity to
develop integrated services throughthe establishment of joint
service planning and provision.
A single body would have greater clout; this
means that it would be betterable to represent the concerns of
Cornwall's communities in jointarrangements and beyond.
Reduction in transaction costs
Delivery of complex public sector activities
and targets has to be undertaken in partnership with large numbers
of other bodies. By reducing the number of organisations and co-ordinating
delivery over thesame geographical area, transaction costs can
be substantially reduced.
23. In proposing this new model of governance
for Cornwall careful consideration will need to be given to the
future of local delivery mechanisms. The relationship between
towns and their rural hinterlands will be key, and this is not
necessarily co-terminus with current district council boundaries.
A strategic body as proposed would need to consider how to engage
at a local level and to develop devolved service delivery. Cornwall
recognises that it is itself a diverse community with different
needs; further, that communities in the north of Cornwall and
parts ofsouth east Cornwall have strong links with their neighbours.
Mechanisms will be required to deal with this. In Cornwall this
suggests a proactive model of clustering for rural parishes and
more strongly defined roles for key town Councils. A single body
would need to consider a dispersal of offices and functions. This
offers the opportunity for co-location with parish clusters and
stronger town councils.
24. However, whatever structure of local
delivery is implemented, local communities will have a stronger
influence over decisions affecting their area through the devolvement
of powers to a democratically elected strategic body.
25. Cornwall has demonstrated how it can
work together to achieve improved economic prospects and better
social cohesion. Cornwall's commitment tostrong partnership working
is demonstrated by its selection as a pilot area for the development
of Local Area Agreements. In the past effort has been fragmented,
and has suffered from institutional peripherality. Today, institutions
work collectively in many partnerships across Cornwall.
26. In essence, our proposals for a unified
geographical structure for the governance of Cornwall follow on
from the discussions in 2005 with partners and the then First
Secretary of the treasury, John Healey MP. This showed how Cornwall
could be both governed and managed more efficiently and effectively
by bringing together the key local, regional and central government
functions into a structure that would deliver for Cornwall and
the UK the Convergence agenda which has been so well articulated
by all those with an interest in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The Government has backed Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with
Objective One and this can be taken to the next level by strengthening
local accountability and community empowerment. This would be
for Cornwall a kind of enhanced local area agreement and demonstrate
the potential of this direction of travel.
27. Cornwall has demonstrated its relevance
to the "city region" debate; notby seeking to create
an artificial city, but by recognising the networked nature of
its towns to provide sustainable distributed growth. Such a model,
based on more dispersed peripheral areas, beyond the significant
influence of cities is also required. The approach set out here
for Cornwall could act as a model for similar areas or regions.
28. Cornwall County Council believes there
is strong public support for increased powers to a devolved body
for Cornwall. During the period 2001-04 a number of surveys showed
public support for devolved governance for Cornwall and the Isles
of Scilly, growing from 46% in 2001 to 55% in 2004. This degree
of popular support is far higher than in otherparts of the England.
29. There are significant savings and efficiencies
to be made by bringing together public services in a more co-ordinated
strategically focussed way.
eg bringing together health and
reducing the number of elected members
increasing democratic scrutiny of the
wider public sector
integrating ICT infrastructure
integrating economic development, training
and educational agencies
reducing confusion to service users.
30. The successful management of a peripheral
region can reduce dependency and contribute to the overall well
being of the UK. Successful regional devolution can provide better
co-ordinated, more efficient, accountable public services. The
success of the future Convergence Programme will depend on the
ability of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to prepare, administer,
deliver and close the Programme in an effective way with its many
partnerships, Regional devolution to a single body in Cornwall
will enable this to happen.
31. Cornwall County Council would welcome
the opportunity to give oral evidence to the Committee on these
Milliband. Letter to Bert Biscoe, Cornish Constitutional Convention
7 October 2005.
2 The Way AheadDelivering Sustainable
Communities in the South West, 2004,
3 Sustainable Communities in the South WestRegional
Focus, EKOS Consulting 2004.