In an interview with CornishStuff, Cornwall Labour Leader Tim Dwelly has questioned the democratic legitimacy of the South West Growth Charter proposal by saying it brings us closer to a point where elected representatives won’t matter anymore.
He has also described a £1 billion funding loss for Cornwall post Brexit.
The South West Charter he says “is further proof of the government intentions to close down the democratic process” as it proposes to draw power away from elected representatives and give it to unelected civil servants or Quangos.
The Cornish Labour leader chairs the Council’s Economy and Culture Portfolio Advisory Committee at County Hall. This committee leads on investment in Cornwall through the EU programmes and on other key areas including Geothermal Energy, food production and tourism. It is a “backbench” Committee that advises the Cabinet member Julian German and creates policy (eg Cornwall Council’s Economy Strategy).
The SWGC, launched by Devon Tory MP Gary Streeter in October, proposes to give the power to decide the structure of our local government and the overall economic direction to unelected bodies including Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) rather than have the final decisions made by elected representatives.
He ties the proposal in with the Boundary Commission’s recommendation to reduce the number of councillors to 70 or 80 and Mr Dwelly says this, along with more powers being transferred to unelected bodies, would leave the people of Cornwall poorer in terms of democratic representation. “Cornwall is the second largest local authority in the country but we would then have the lowest democratic representation”
Currently Cornwall Council and the LEP are entering into an increasingly heated debate about who controls the economic direction of Cornwall, including how our EU money is spent. The elected councillors or the executives and private businessmen who make up the LEP?
After the Autumn statement Cornwall Council submitted their economic development plans to the Government, laying out ideas for funding post Brexit – and Mr Dwelly accused the Council of submitting this without due process. Part of these submitted proposals is to give the LEP the final say on project proposals and the general economic direction of Cornwall.
“Surely the decision making body should be elected?” argued the Cornwall Labour Leader.
As Chair of the Council’s Economic Strategy committee, he intends to table a motion to this effect at an important Council meeting next Tuesday.
The SWGC proposes to merge the two neighboring LEPs of Cornwall/IOS and an area covering Devon and Somerset called “The Heart of the South West”. If the LEPs are merged then so will the funding packages made available by central government, and so will the management of EU funds and devolution deals.
Labour says Cornwall already is exposed to a massive drop in funding over the few years.
Mr Dwelly estimated that after the autumn statement spending round and into Brexit proper, Cornwall will be hit with a £1bn bombshell of funding shortfalls.
He calculates this from the loss of existing euro funds, loss of match funding and also the EU money that would be on offer after this round ends in 2020.
“What we’ve heard from the government so far confirms all our worse fears” he said today.
On the SWGC Mr Dwelly dismissed the idea and said Cornwall Labour would do all it can to oppose it:
“It’s just not going to happen, we will never vote to have a Mayor. They can re-visit it as much as anyone wants – the answer will still be no”
“There is already a widespread expectation that the amount of money that Cornwall IOS LEP will receive from the next Growth Deal spending round will be extremely disappointing”
“The LEP has asked for projects worth over £100m to be funded – but because of government cuts we are looking at getting less than £30m. Some major projects already in the planning just wont go ahead”
When challenged on Labour’s record in Cornwall Mr Dwelly, who was born in Redruth but now lives in and represents Penzance replied
“Remember it was a Labour Government that chose to treat Cornwall separately. Because of a Labour Government decision, billions have been invested in Cornwall”
“The RDA system wasn’t perfect but now all our funding decisions are made by a civil servant at the DCLG or an unelected LEP. What ever happened to the bonfire of the quangos?”
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