Cornwall Council meeting leaves people scratching their heads

By Richard Whitehouse - Local Democracy Reporter

5th Dec 2022 | Local News

Cornwall Council, County Hall, Truro (Image: Richard Whitehouse/LDRS)
Cornwall Council, County Hall, Truro (Image: Richard Whitehouse/LDRS)

As the dust settled on a fractious and chaotic meeting of Cornwall Council this week the disputes and arguments over proposals for a Mayor for Cornwall continued outside the council chamber.

As councillors were leaving New County Hall the leading Conservative group issued a press release about the day's events, which appeared totally at odds with what had actually happened. "Opposition Councillors on Cornwall Council vote against giving County Hall a vote on having a referendum or not on future Mayor plans for Cornwall"  it claimed.

Wait a minute, hadn't Independent councillor Tim Dwelly tabled a motion that called for councillors to have a vote on whether to have a referendum? I looked back at the papers just to make sure I wasn't going mad.

There it was in black and white: "Cornwall Council should hold a vote to decide if a referendum of all voters be held to determine whether Cornwall is in future governed by a Mayor. This vote of full council shall be held after consideration of any public consultation exercise undertaken by this Council."

So, what were the Conservatives claiming exactly? In their press release council leader, Linda Taylor was quoted as: "I was really surprised to see our opposition apparently united in opposing plans that will, following the shortly forthcoming consultation to the people of Cornwall, see a vote at County Hall on whether future plans for a Mayor should go to a referendum or not."

Eh? But that was exactly what the motion from Cllr Dwelly was asking for, a motion that the Conservative group said they couldn't support.

Having sat through the fractured and confusing debate which gripped councillors in the chamber (and very few others) some might wonder whether some Conservative councillors had actually read the original motion.

Later I spotted on Twitter that some Conservative councillors kept up this attack line, trying to make out that they were on the side of the people and that the Independent councillors were somehow opposed to a referendum.

This despite the fact that it was an Independent councillor, seconded by a Conservative councillor no less, who had called for the council to be able to have a vote on whether there should be a referendum on the mayoral issue but not until a public consultation is complete.

Confused? It would appear that political spin is the name of the game on this matter but the problem with that is that it is the people of Cornwall who are left in the middle of a cyclone with no idea which way is forward.

The public consultation on the proposed devolution deal will be published this week – Cllr Taylor said there would be no time for councillors to approve this before it goes to the people.

Crucially the majority of councillors are yet to see what is included in the devolution deal all we have been told is that it is "ambitious" and would bring £ 390 million to Cornwall. However, there are claims that that is over 30 years – so £13m a year – and there will be limits on what that can be spent on.

When the consultation goes live this week there will be a lot of people looking very closely at the questions included and how they are worded. If you ask most people, would they like an extra £390m for Cornwall? they are likely to tick any box stating yes.

There has always been talk from councillors of all political persuasions about their enthusiasm for openness and transparency – all should be clear that it is vital that on this issue there is true clarity about what the people of Cornwall will get if they accept the deal and the Mayor that comes with it.


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