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Leading think tank calls for ‘real devolution’ to Cornwall – including ability to raise tax on second homes

20 Mar 2021 3 minute read


Porthysek in Cornwall. Photo by Greg Willson on Unsplash

A new report by a leading think tanks has called for “real devolution” to Cornwall – including the ability to raise tax on second homes.

Cornwall was one of the first areas to secure a devolution deal in 2015 and it remains the only non-metropolitan area with devolved powers outside Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But six years on, it was clear that Cornwall has now outgrown its original deal, the Institute of Public Policy Research said.

The report says that “real devolution must come with the powers for areas like Cornwall to flex their economic muscles differently depending on local circumstances and drawing upon the expertise and knowledge of local practitioners and leaders”.

“In a time of crisis and uncertainty, it is Cornish businesses, communities, civil society organisations and local government that have led the response and in the coming months and year, will lead the recovery.

“Real long-term devolution of powers and resources for Cornwall, enacted in parliament, would turbocharge these efforts and make a significant contribution to the national effort to build back better.”

Sarah Longlands, of IPPR said: “At a time when we face extraordinary challenges, places like Cornwall need the power and resources to be able to get on and get the job done, rather than wait for central government to make the next move.

“From the Cornish language, the seabed, to skills and tax, too many aspects of Cornish life are determined by Whitehall.

“From our research, it is clear that Cornwall has made the best of the fairly limited decentralisation deal that it was originally offered.

“Given the impact of Covid on Cornwall’s hospitality industry and the uncertainty of Brexit, now is the time to give Cornwall real devolution which means that they have the economic powers and resources they need to support a strong and fair recovery.”

‘Positive impact’

They suggest that a new deal, as a minimum, should include:

  • Fiscal devolution including the ability to tax second homes, retain 1 per cent of VAT in the visitor economy and retain 100 per cent of business rates. There is also interest in the development of a VAT escalator scheme to incentivise VAT registration.
  • Devolved allocation of £700m UK Shared Prosperity Fund investment for Cornwall to manage and distribute based on local rather than national priorities.
  • Devolved allocation of a multi-year adult education and skills budget with flexibility to deliver these services to meet local needs and priorities.
  • A pilot for devolution to support the natural environment, giving Cornwall local control over the environmental powers and resources to deliver its Local Nature Recovery Strategy, to build sustainable responses to the climate and ecological crisis.
  • Pilot schemes of innovative responses to health and social care in a rural context. Having introduced the award-winning Tri-Service Safety Officers, bringing together fire, police and ambulance emergency response roles

Cllr Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council, welcomed the findings. He said: “Cornwall was the first and remains the only rural area with a deal.

“Through the powers we received we have been able to bring significant benefits to Cornwall which have had a really positive impact on our residents’ lives.

“Since the deal in 2015, alongside better public transport and more connectivity for Cornwall we have cut carbon emissions by making 1,000 homes cheaper to heat for the most vulnerable households every year, and have had the powers to match economic growth funds to local priorities such as pioneering renewable energy from “hot rocks” deep underground.”

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