Cornwall Council has launched a major campaign to get more power and control of funding, including a long term proposal to have the "freedom" to avoid asking the public when it wants to increase council tax in the future.

The Leader of Cornwall Council John Pollard has written to the leaders of the main national political parties in England calling on them to give their support for "greater powers and freedoms to be given to Cornwall" following the general election.

READ The PACKET's view here.

Included in the "Case for Cornwall", which people in Cornwall are being asked to support, is the "freedom for Cornwall Council to set an "appropriate level of council tax" without the "imposition of a costly referendum".

It also includes a bid by the authority to take over vast swathes of funding and powers.

These include, moves to allow it to retain and re-invest a quarter of all VAT generated by the tourism industry; to take control of English Heritage powers and resources; to direct the spend of  direct skills funding; influence over the thresholds, rates and eligibility for electricity subsidy regimes; control over the development of the electrical grid network; enhancing the Council’s planning power; the control of capital receipts from selling off the public sector estate; control of devolved delivery of EU funding; retaining an element of Stamp Duty to reinvest in building more affordable housing; to take over the powers and land holdings of the Homes and Communities Agency in Cornwall;  2p per litre from the existing fuel duty to generate approximately £7.5 million a year to maintain rural roads

In the letter, Mr Pollard sets out the reasons why Cornwall should have greater control over its own affairs and calls on all the main political parties to back the ‘Case for Cornwall’.

The revised Case for Cornwall document [CLICK HERE] which sets out details of the additional powers and freedoms which are being sought, has also been sent to representatives of the main political parties in Cornwall.

“Following the Scottish Referendum last September the devolution of powers and responsibilities within England has become a burning topic” said John Pollard.  “Cornwall needs to have more local accountability, more local control, more local direction and more local democracy.  The powers, freedoms and flexibility we are requesting are all realistic and will enable us to deliver a better service to our communities and create a more flexible and sustainable Cornwall.”

“Our ambition is to achieve ‘double devolution’ so that the Council’s partners, including our town and parish colleagues and our partners in the voluntary sector, benefit from the transfer of powers from London to Cornwall.  These are actions that the unitary Council, working with our partners, can achieve.

“We recognise that there are those with ambitions for different forms of governance and our ‘case’ will lay the foundations for later developments .  As our negotiations on devolved powers develop,  so will the debate on wider issues of governance and management.”

Following the decision of the full Council to back the draft “Case for Cornwall” in January, further work has been carried out on developing the “asks”.

Not everyone agrees with what has emerged, with Councillor Fiona Ferguson writting: "My efforts to have public consultation on the content of the document have been ignored.

"The administration believe that it is more important to ask for powers now than to have the public's backing. 
For example, it believes a public referendum should no longer be necessary for 'excessive rises' in council tax",

"If Cornwall had been asked would it agree? Is this really what the public expected to emerge from a 'fairer funding' campaign?"

 Copies of the Case for Cornwall document will also be available in libraries and one stop shops.



The newsroom has been treated this week to a slick campaign by Cornwall Council, launched to make the “Case for Cornwall”.

Much of this makes huge sense, and to take the sting out of the barbs that will fly, I am all for wresting powers from central government and a cabal of unaccountable distant politicians and quango bosses, but this is not a “Case for Cornwall” for one glaringly clear and simple reason.

This is that Cornwall has not been asked about it, at all.

It is a wish list of powers and funding that councillors and officers would love to get their hands on.

Does it make sense? Maybe it does. Maybe it is the best thing since pasties on a beach, but I cannot say this loudly enough, CORNWALL COUNCIL IS NOT CORNWALL.

Yes it plays a part, but Cornwall is much bigger than the goings-on behind the doors of County Hall.

While there has clearly been enough time to create fancy booklets, a glaring fault is that there seems to not have been the time to ask Cornwall (the real one not the dubiously conflated Cornwall is Cornwall Council and vice versa version in the expensive PR) what it thinks.

Evidence of this is probably most glaring in the desire to have the power to hugely hike our council tax without having to go to the trouble of asking the people who pay it. Yes, that is one of the powers the council, not ‘Cornwall’ I suspect, want to have.

Yes the “freedom” to dodge democratic accountability sits right up there with the desire to keep some fuel duty. That does not bode well.

As I have said, I am all for more devolution, after all who knows better than the people in Cornwall what should happen in Cornwall. BUT, and it is a huge but, is Cornwall Council the best way to do this?

Is the authority, with its rich history of failure and infighting the best structure to deliver the goods with this huge array of new powers and the flood of millions it will bring.

Yes it has and does good things, and it has had as many successes as it has had mistakes, especially in troubled time with slashed budgets, but that is my point, should there not be a conversation?

Maybe it is the best body to to do this with the best of Cornish brains at the helm, but maybe it is not.

Writing lots of buzz worlds in a flashy document about how we will all have jobs, homes and jam tomorrow is not the same thing as being competent enough to actually make this happen. 

The same authority that made the most vulnerable pay council tax, leading to a huge rise in arrears, thousands of bailiff visits and a vast ocean of suffering, while conveniently forgetting that the very richest may shoulder the burden, now want the power to hike it by five percent, ten per cent to God only knows per cent, but does not want to ask us, the people of Cornwall whether that is a power we want them to have.

So by all means support the ‘Case for Cornwall', support more powers and more control of funding, but do not for one minute think it represents the best deal for the duchy, or one we have even been asked about. Rather it is the best deal for Cornwall Council in terms of vastly building its somewhat depleted and damaged empire. 

Call me old fashioned but the best deal for Cornwall is one that Cornwall decides upon, not one delivered via a slick marketing campaign from afar, ironically the very thing the ‘Case for Cornwall is arguing against. The presumption and hypocrisy are staggering.

The Skipper