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Lib-Dems to vote on Cornwall devolution

By WMNAGreenwood  |  Posted: February 05, 2014

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A vote at the Liberal Democrats spring conference could make a bid for Cornish devolution party policy.

The motion is among a raft of constitutional changes – including a move to proportional representation and House of Lords reform – due to be debated by party members in York next month.

Cornwall Councillor Alex Folkes, deputy leader of the Lib-Dem group, said the proposal was for “asymmetric devolution” where different regions could assume different powers from government.

“The key here is what is right for each area and if they want to go at different paces they can,” Coun Folkes said. “We needed to work out how to avoid resistance in some areas affecting other areas determination. We want devolution because there are fundamental issues about people in Cornwall knowing what is best for Cornwall, just as is the case in Devon.”

Coun Folkes said the county’s “culture, identity and history” made it a special case and that foundations for a devolved assembly, based on the Welsh model, had already been laid through the creation of the unitary authority.”

He added: “We think it is right for Cornwall, it should be the master of its own destiny and has, for far too long, been ignored by central government.”

The motion, to be voted on at the conference in York from March 7-9, proposes an “English Devolution Enabling Act”, which would devolve power to Cornwall, and also to London and any council, or group of councils, with a population of a million or more.

Ten years ago, Cornish party Mebyon Kernow (MK) handed over a 50,000-name petition to 10 Downing Street calling for a Cornish Assembly.

MK Cornwall Councillor Andrew Long welcomed “another conversion from the Lib-Dems” but had doubts over the party’s motives. He said: “Could they be worried about the popularity of Mebyon Kernow, which is fielding six candidates in the next General Election, and how that might affect their seats?”

“We would like to believe their motives are honourable but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating because we have been let down so many times before.

“When we had 50,000 signatures on a petition for a democratically elected Cornwall Assembly, they jumped on the bandwagon,” he said.

“But when they gained controlled of Cornwall Council in 2005 they utterly failed to do anything about it.”

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