Cornwall Council will decide on another devolution deal later this year after dropping plans for the Government’s Level 3 deal in April when its requirement to have an elected Mayor of Cornwall proved unpopular with the public.

However, the new Level 2 deal has been dubbed “insubstantial” by one Cornish councillor.

The council’s Cabinet is likely to make a decision on accepting a second devolution deal (ensuring more political decisions are made locally rather than by central government) in September to acquire further powers to those secured in the 2015 Cornwall Devolution Deal.

In December last year Cornwall’s proposed Level 3 deal was announced as part of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper (LUWP). A ten-week public consultation involving over 5,000 people across the Duchy demonstrated considerable concern about the prospect of having a directly elected mayor. There were even protests about it outside County Hall / Lys Kernow in Truro.

The Cabinet decided not to proceed with the deal and to seek the lesser Level 2 deal as an alternative. It came under discussion at a meeting of the council’s customer and support services overview and scrutiny committee this week.

The meeting heard that getting to the point of having negotiated a proposed Level 3 deal enabled the council to secure and retain £7 million for four priority affordable housing schemes, £3 million for seven heritage projects and subsequently acquired £1 million investment in Cornwall’s natural capital. Furthermore, the draft Media Bill, published by the Government on March 29, 2023, delivered on the Level 3 Deal proposal of including Cornish in the list of recognised regional or minority languages.

In accordance with the Government’s framework, a Level 3 Deal would have provided Cornwall with a £360m investment fund and £8.7m of brownfield funding – neither of those funds are available at Level 2.

It is not yet known whether the more bespoke elements of funding in the proposed Level 3 deal will be retained, for example £500,000 funding for the Cornish language. However, Cornwall would be able to control a £10m adult education budget which is currently allocated centrally.

Matt Barton, head of strategy and business planning, told the committee that Cornwall Council had recently re-engaged with government civil servants to get the ball rolling on a Level 2 deal, the details of which should be finalised by the end of August with a decision likely at a Cabinet meeting on September 13. He said it was unlikely there would be anything fundamentally new in the deal apart from the removal of the elected mayor element.

Cllr Stephen Rushworth said: “I was of the understanding we already had a Level 2 deal, so is this going to be a new Level 2 or is it just a way of trying to leverage more money?”

Mr Barton explained that the 2015 Cornwall Devolution Deal wasn’t part of the current devolution framework though its powers and funding are very similar to Level 2 devolution. However, there are differences including the devolution of the £10m adult education budget which wasn’t available in 2015 but is now.

That budget provides funding for three key areas – Cornwall Council’s adult education service, Cornwall College and Truro & Penwith College. Allocation of its money is currently decided by a government agency in Manchester, but would be devolved to Cornwall as part of the new proposals.

Mebyon Kernow’s Dick Cole said he has always campaigned for “proper devolution not what’s deemed devolution”. He said: “I tend to think that the Level 2 deal is very insubstantial given Cornwall’s national identity. As a council we should be coming together a bit more.”

He requested that a cross-party panel is set up to develop a “more ambitious devolution deal with the UK government as a matter or urgency”. Cllr Cole added: “Yesterday the leader of this council was in Wales signing an agreement to work closely with another one of the United Kingdom’s nations and yet here we are talking about devolution in a very weak local government context.”


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Cllr John Fitter asked if council officers had engaged with other political parties at Westminster ahead of the next general election for their views on a devolution deal for Cornwall. Mr Barton replied that it hadn’t and any engagement was down to politicians not officers. Cllr Julian German said that the council had engaged with all political parties before previous general elections and urged Cornwall Council’s chief executive Kate Kennally to do so again.

Responding to a question by Cllr Stephen Barnes about the cost of the Level 3 negotiations, Ms Kennally said there had been an allocated budget of up to £60,000 and there was no budget overspend by the end of the process.

She added: “What is in a Level 2 deal is an executive function for Cabinet to decide. We don’t have a Level 2 deal to go to Cabinet for discussion [yet] and we don’t know when we’ll be able to share details of that deal.”

The committee agreed to defer commenting and asked for another report with more information.