UK Government tells Cornwall it can’t have devolution without a mayor
Richard Whitehouse, local democracy reporter
The Leader of Cornwall Council has confirmed that the UK Government has said that Cornwall will have to have a directly elected mayor if it is to get the highest level of devolution.
The council is currently in discussions with the UK Government about securing a new County Deal for Cornwall.
This aims to bring more funding and powers to Cornwall from the Government which the council’s Conservative administration says would benefit Cornwall. However, in order to have the highest Level 3 devolution the Government indicated that local councils would have to change their governance and have a directly elected mayor.
Last month council leader Linda Taylor said that the council and Cornwall’s six MPs were going to new Prime Minister Liz Truss to ask whether they could have the Level 3 deal but without having to introduce a directly elected mayor. However, that request has been rejected.
Cllr Taylor said: “There were other authorities in the country that were trying to get a deal without a directly elected mayor and I spoke with them at (the Conservative Party) conference, However we were told that Level 3 comes with that condition.”
The Conservative councillor said that the council would now be picking up its work on finalising the details of the county deal and would then undertake consultation with the public which will provide those details and ask for their views on the deal and the requirement to have a directly elected mayor.
Cllr Taylor said: “As we secure our deal we want to make sure that absolutely everybody knows that is in the deal so when people make their minds up they have all the facts, rather than just being asked if they want a mayor or not.”
There have been calls for a referendum to be held to allow residents of Cornwall to decide whether there should be a directly elected mayor. Cllr Taylor has previously dismissed this and said that the council has no plans for a referendum due to the cost.
She added: “There will be a consultation period, it will be between six and eight weeks and that consultation will engage all aspects of the deal, not just being asked yes or no about a mayor.
“This is a democratic process and to be honest, being asked yes or no for a mayor when you don’t know what you are getting is not very democratic.”
Asked what her views are on whether Cornwall should have a mayor Cllr Taylor added: “At the very start of the discussion I always said I would like Level 3 without a directly elected mayor. We have a lot of the things that come with that but what we don’t have is the pot of money that comes with a Level 3 deal.
“We want to pursue our discussions and get the very best deal that we can get so that we can present the full facts to the people.”
The final decision on whether Cornwall Council accepts the Level 3 county deal and a directly elected mayor will be made by the 87 councillors at New County Hall.
At the same time a petition calling for a referendum to let Cornwall decide whether it has a directly elected mayor will not be accepted by Cornwall Council. As the issue regards the constitution of the council it cannot be accepted by the authority.
Tim Dwelly, independent Cornwall councillor and part of Let Cornwall Decide group, said: “We are shocked to have been told that Cornwall Council will refuse to allow the petition to be presented to councillors. There may be small print that allows the council to avoid this debate but it is politically crazy for Linda Taylor and the Chair of the council to make that this will come across to the people of Cornwall as anything but a huge slapdown.
“As the council is refusing to have the petition presented we are putting forward a motion which asks for all councillors to decide if there is a referendum on a mayor and we expect that to be presented at the November meeting of full council.
“What no-one understands is why the six MPs and leader of the council think it is acceptable to ask for a deal without a mayor, to be told to do what they are told by Conservatives in London and then think it is in any way sensible to carry on regardless.
“The message to Cornwall is ‘London insists you do what you are told’. Most of us in Cornwall don’t like that message but it appears the six MPs and leader of the council are going to do what they are told by their party in London.
“My hope is that, even at the eleventh hour, they will see sense and drop the mayor proposal and not push any deal that insists on having one.
“If Linda Taylor sees the writing on the wall and tells the Government that it won’t go for a deal that insists on having a mayor the pressure will be on the Conservatives in London to listen to the people in Cornwall rather than Linda Taylor putting her reputation at risk.”
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