8 February 2008

The order to implement the unitary council in Cornwall passed on 7 February 2008 and it is now full steam ahead. You can read the debate here. A previous post is here.

The Liberal Democrats made their usual nationalist-lite points about Cornwall unitary council needing more powers than the government is giving: the minister repeated that there were “no specific additional powers” for the unitary council in the order but added vaguely to the effect that tomorrow was another day. Four of the MPs supported the order; Andrew George opposed it chiefly because, if I understood his argument right, it did not give or promise enough devolution. The Conservatives pointed out that the various polls in Cornwall showed most voting people there against the county council’s successful proposals and that only thirty two of the eighty two county councillors voted for them; the Libdems had no convincing answer to this arithmetic.

The minister said he approved the proposals because they were viable and support in Cornwall for the proposals was “sufficiently broad” which seems to give a very broad meaning to ‘broad support.’ He added of the government’s criteria for successful unitary proposals , “Our criteria of support are not, and never have been, related to whether a majority of stakeholders, local citizens, or any other interest group were in favour of the proposal.” That is clear: it means people’s views and votes don’t count much. On this official Labour and Liberal Democrat opinion seem at one.

It would be good to hear the parties explore their ideas around this sort of situation: what are the guiding principles when people and MPs/ministers disagree over a proposed measure, what is the democratic approach and answer?

Anyway, read the debate and decide for yourself.

Of more interest now are the financial claims which I am not able to judge. This is the summary worth remembering around 2011 or 2012; (a) the county figures and (b) Chisholm figures.

The savings to be made from going unitary
(a) £15.4 million a year
(b) £6-£9 million a year

One-off cost of going unitary
(a) £19.3 million
(b) £27.8 million.

“the payback period for the changes will be about two years”: John Healey, the minister in the debate.

If I didn’t have to pay the bill, whatever it is, it would be amusing to sit back and see who’s right.