“In July 2015, an agreement on a historic Cornwall Devolution Deal was announced by the Prime Minister. It was the first rural Devolution Deal to be agreed and Cornwall continues to be the devolution flag bearer for non-metropolitan areas” begins the preface to the Government’s strategic look at how Cornwall is governed, The GREG report, published in Sept 2016.
Cornwall’s Devolution Deal included a clear statement that any future deals with the Government to change the way Cornwall is run will be predicated on a strengthening of local governance. It needs to meet the Government’s ambition for visible and accountable leadership that “enables residents to understand who is taking local decisions”
Cornwall is the only place in the country, so far, with a comprehensive Devolution Deal that does not require a directly elected Mayor.
But, according to GREG, this does not quite translate into the Council being as strong as it could be if it is to grasp further devolution opportunities.
The face we, Cornwall as a whole, present to the Government matters even more now the decision has been made to leave the EU, especially when it comes to asking for money.
Published in September 2016, the GREG report made the case for strengthened and collaborative strategic leadership and governance of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly:
“The biggest challenge moving forward is the ability of partners to work towards the needs of Cornwall as a whole rather than those of constituent organisations” said the report. ‘At a national level, Cornwall is perceived more strongly when organisations speak as one rather than as individual entities’
“The stakes have never been higher, nor the scale of the opportunity that presents itself to Cornwall” the report continued. This is now especially true as the new scramble for post Brexit funding gets underway.
But in the end, is the new Cornwall and IOS Leadership Board just another layer of bureaucracy? A chance for Top Dogs to swan around feeling important whilst grabbing a buffet lunch?
Or, as the council’s own report suggests, it will create a “A stronger voice nationally – a collective voice to central government and other bodies on issues of importance to the area”
The new board is seen as the answer to satisfying one of the key recommendations from the review and that is ultimately why it is being created. The GREG Report recommendations were endorsed by Council at its meeting on 6 October 2016.
This new layer of governance structure will replace the Devolution Board, set up after the Devolution Deal was agreed to monitor how the ‘ever further devolution’ to Cornwall is going. The Constitution & Governance Committee of the Council will rubber stamp the proposal, when they meet at 11am today in County Hall, Truro.
But the new board doesn’t actually have any powers. It’s a place for those at the top of Cornwall’s political pyramid to sit and discuss, and hopefully agree, the best direction for Cornwall.
Don’t they do that anyway?
The immediate obvious question is why do we need another board to hover around all the other boards Cornwall Council ‘engages’ with?
For example we’ve already got the ITI board, the LEP Board and Cornwall Council Cabinet, and the Futures Group etc.
And over a hundred other elected Councillors. Not forgetting all the Council officers who supposedly really run the shop.
The need for Cornwall to provide reassurance of robust ‘placed based’ leadership and governance will remain crucial. The creation of a Leadership Board, say the powers that be, in the officer’s own jargon Is “an important step in demonstrating that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have effective arrangements in place to maximise the opportunities for further devolution”
Whereas the Government has indicated that elected mayors will not be a requirement for for rural counties, they also haven’t said what the alternative is, nor what level of governance will be required in areas that do wish to extend devolution and funding opportunities.
The risk is that Government fails to recognise the Leadership Board as providing sufficiently strengthened governance for further devolution. Assuming that is that all parties can get on with each other sufficiently to present the United Front.
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, it is argued, are well placed to demonstrate the Leadership Board as a genuine alternative to the mayoral model which could be replicated in other rural areas.
The involvement of a Member of Parliament has the benefit of providing a direct link between the Board and Government and providing further reassurance about the Board’s legitimacy.
Meetings of Leadership Board will be on a quarterly basis.
It is proposed the Board will be made up of:
Leader of Cornwall Council *
Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council *
Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly *
Leader of the largest opposition group on Cornwall Council *
Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner (representative of Safer
Representation of Cornwall’s Members of Parliament (x 1) *
Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership
Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership
Cornwall Council Portfolio holder for Adults as the representative of the
Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Board * (noting that the chair of the HWB is
the Leader of Cornwall Council)
Chair of Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (signature to the Cornwall
President of the Chamber of Commerce
* Democratically elected
In parallel, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England agreed that implementation of its review of electoral arrangements in Cornwall due to take effect from May 2017 would be postponed to 2021 to enable Cornwall Council to undertake a fundamental review of its governance arrangements including the contentious review of of council seats boundaries.
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Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board
Proposed terms of reference
1. To provide strong and visible collective leadership of Cornwall and the
Isles of Scilly to realise the full economic, social and environmental
potential of the region.
2. To develop a single, unified strategic vision and shared outcome
framework for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
3. To ensure alignment of the strategic vision and shared outcomes
framework across constituent organisations’ strategic plans and
4. To develop shared solutions to address current and future funding
5. To guide work with local authorities, agencies and bodies beyond
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in order to achieve any shared economic,
social and environmental objectives.
6. To provide assurance that key strategic initiatives in respect of Cornwall,
Isles of Scilly, and neighbouring authorities are appropriately linked.
7. To provide oversight of strategic partnerships to enable synergy of work
8. To provide assurance through strategic oversight that the Cornwall
Devolution Deal is being effectively delivered.
9. To provide strategic direction on priorities for future devolution from
10. To contribute to the formulation and expression of joint views (of those
organisations represented upon the Board) to central government and
other bodies and organisations in respect of legislation, proposed
legislation and other matters of concern, interest or relevance to Cornwall
and the Isles of Scilly with a particular focus on removing barriers to
inclusive growth and the delegation of additional powers and funding.
11. To provide direction on the future governance of Cornwall and the Isles of
Scilly to support strategic aspirations.
12. To operate in an open and transparent environment, being visible and
accountable to the public and ensuring that residents’ priorities are at the
heart of the Board’s activity and decision making.
UPDATE: The Governance Committee agreed to recommend that the Chair of Cornwall Association of Local Councils CALC , be invited on to the Leadership Board in addition to the others.
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