CHANCELLOR for the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, today gave his Autumn Statement which included a proposed agreement for a Level 2 devolution deal between the government and Cornwall Council.

Having had a Level 3 mayoral deal, the most comprehensive devolution package, rejected by a public consultation at the end of last year, this year's proposed agreement now stands as a Level 2 deal. These deals are described by the government as typically "for devolution to single local government institutions without a directly elected mayor, such as combined authorities, or a single upper tier local authority."

As part of the deal, the government will devolve Adult education and skills functions to Cornwall Council. The government says it will "fully devolve the Adult Education Budget to Cornwall Council from academic year 2025/26 subject to readiness conditions and Parliamentary approval of the required secondary legislation conferring the appropriate functions."

"Upon devolution, Cornwall Council will be responsible for making allocations to providers and setting the outcomes to be achieved, including with statutory entitlements. The government will not seek to second guess these decisions, but it will set proportionate requirements about outcome information to be collected in order to allow students to make informed choices."

In order the devolution deal to go ahead, the government says it needs to be assured of the following readiness conditions:

A. The Secretary of State for Education and appropriate accounting officer are assured that Cornwall Council is operationally ready to administer AEB and is satisfied the required statutory tests have been met.

B. Parliament has legislated to enable transfer to Cornwall Council of the current statutory duties on the Secretary of State to secure appropriate facilities for further education for adults from this budget and for provision to be free in certain circumstances.

C. Agreement to a memorandum of understanding between the Department for Education and Cornwall Council that provides appropriate assurance that the named parties will work together to ensure the future financial stability of the provider base, including for sharing financial risk and managing provider failure.

D. Learner protection arrangements are agreed between parties.

Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly will also be supported to take on relevant functions and roles of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP. This is due to the government confirming its previous ‘minded to’ decision to withdraw central government core funding for LEPs from April 2024 and transfer their functions to local and combined authorities.

This deal confirms the integration of LEP functions into Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly, subject to government approval of an integration plan and the agreement of the two councils.

The deal also mentions the creation of a Cornwall Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) Commission which would hope to bring clean energy to the shores of Cornwall and elsewhere quicker, enabling Cornwall to contribute to the delivery of the UK's targets for renewable generation.

Also included in the deal would be £500,000 of funding from the government in 2023/24 to support Cornish "distinctiveness," which would include the protection and promotion of the Cornish language but would be "subject to a business case."

The government also says it will "consider the case for supporting the positive management of Cornish Hedges through the agricultural transition programme or farming reforms."

According to the deal: "The government will furthermore agree a memorandum of understanding with Cornwall Council on the attendance of the Council Leader or an appropriate deputy at meetings of the languages work sector of the British-Irish Council, as an adviser to the government on matters pertaining to the Cornish language."

When it comes to public service reform, the government says it has committed to working with Cornwall Council and partners to explore initiatives to improve the delivery of public services, such as how best to support residents with multiple complex needs.

It goes on to say that, where appropriate, and as part of its levelling up agenda, the government will also consider devolving further powers to Cornwall Council to support public service reform.

Cornwall Council will maintain their current governance arrangements of a leader and cabinet executive governance model. Cornwall Council’s elections will continue to take place on the same four yearly cycle, with the next scheduled elections due in May 2025

As part of its commitments underpinning the deal, Cornwall Council will be expected to:

  1. Work with the government to develop a full implementation plan, covering each policy agreed in this deal, to be completed ahead of implementation. This plan must be approved by the government prior to delivery. Any issues of concern with the subsequent delivery of this deal will be escalated to ministers and leaders to resolve, in keeping with the letter and spirit of devolution.
  2. Agree a process to manage local financial risk relating to the deal provisions with the government. 
  3. Prior to the implementation of the deal, the government will work with Cornwall Council to give the public and stakeholders – including Parliament – a clear understanding of: the powers and funding that are being devolved to Cornwall; where accountability sits as a result of this deal; and how decisions are made.
  4. Continue to adhere to their public sector equality duties, for both existing and newly devolved responsibilities.

In a statement issued regarding the new deal, Linda Taylor, leader of Cornwall Council, said: “This level two deal is the very best we could have hoped for after the decision in April not to pursue the level three deal due to the requirement for a directly elected Mayor.

“It devolves decision making for adult education from Whitehall to Cornwall, so that working with businesses and skills providers we can make sure that Cornwall has got the skills it needs for the future.

“The deal also provides with a fantastic opportunity to shape national policy in respect of floating offshore wind power with further pledges to work together to develop our net zero commitment.

“I am also delighted by the support shown for the Cornish language.  This recognition of our distinctiveness is supported by £500,000 funding and comes now with a voice on the British-Irish Council something which we have been pushing for from Government for some time.

“However, we remain ambitious for more, and we want to set out those ambitions for dialogue with future governments through the creation of a new Cornwall White Paper.

“We want this paper to be developed as a cross-party effort, ensuring all voices are heard as we develop our proposals.

“No one knows more about what Cornwall needs to succeed than the people who live here, and I look forward to working with everyone to create a plan to ensure the best possible outcome for us; One and All.”

Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “I am delighted to agree this Level 2 devolution deal with Cornwall, to bring more funding and powers out of Whitehall and directly into the hands of Cornish communities.

"Cornwall is a beautiful area with a rich history and a vibrant culture of creativity and innovation. This deal will help Cornwall to champion its heritage, create more opportunities for its residents and unleash its economic potential.”