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120920 | Devolution 'puts council's finances before localism'

As reported in The Cornishman/West Briton

Devolution 'puts council's finances before localism'

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

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The Cornishman


HAYLE councillors have slammed Cornwall Council over a document, which they claim puts the unitary authority's financial concerns ahead of the taxpayer and the spirit of localism.

Cornwall Council sent the Proposed Procedure of Devolution and Asset Transfer document to all local councils in August.

Hayle Mayor councillor Jayne Ninnes. PZPM20120510D-002_C.jpg

Hayle Mayor councillor Jayne Ninnes. PZPM20120510D-002_C.jpg

At a recent meeting, Hayle Town Council voted unanimously to strongly reject the proposals, which state that a service, such as toilets or recreation grounds, can be devolved to the local council if "the financial and other benefits to Cornwall Council and the wider community are sufficient to justify" it.

But Hayle councillors felt that this definition did not best serve the taxpayers of Cornwall or fit with the spirit of localism.

They felt the document should read "whether the financial and other benefits to the wider community are sufficient to justify the devolution to the local council".

Mayor Jayne Ninnes said: "It is the fact that it (financially benefits Cornwall Council) is their primary concern. For us, localism was meant to be about local communities taking control of local assets and running them for local people. We don't believe that it was put in place for the financial benefit of Cornwall Council."

A spokeswoman for the unitary authority said it would be considering all responses before finalising the proposals.

Councillors at the meeting also said it was essential that funding associated with assets should be devolved to local councils otherwise devolution of assets would result in a tax increase through the local precept.

"Where Cornwall Council has control over income and expenditure it is reasonable that it controls assets," said Mrs Ninnes.

"If the council wishes us to control that asset we should have the same access to income as well as expenditure. It is not reasonable to expect us to take it on with unsupported costs. It is a double taxation to the local taxpayer."

Mrs Ninnes added that the council was keen to take on assets and work with Cornwall Council.

She said: "Hayle Town Council wanted to take control of assets such as Frank Johns Centre and hoped to work productively with the council to move forwards but to do that Cornwall Council has to look at the benefit to local communities and not prioritise its financial benefits."

A spokeswoman for Cornwall Council said: "This is a consultation exercise prior to taking a report to Cabinet for formal consideration.

"We look at the devolution of all assets on a case-by-case basis and allocation of funding is part of this consideration. In many cases the asset will have an external income source that a local town or parish council will have direct control of."

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