Earlier this week George Eustice and I published an article, starting a debate to find a new answer to an old question - what can be done to realise the aspiration of Cornish residents for more say over the decisions that affect us, our families and community.
The new Localism and Sustainable Communities Acts enable the transfer of power from Westminster to local people and communities and allows Councils to claim greater control over the public services that can make a real difference to the quality of our lives. Giving communities a stronger voice than ever before in the making and delivery of the policies that will affect one and all.
Here in Cornwall, our communities celebrate vibrant and dynamic identities. We all share an immense pride in our distinct history, culture and identity. We are in a unique position to take the Localism and Sustainable Communities Acts to their very limits, utilising the potential of the Acts to create a potent localism, involving a radical devolution of power not just to County Hall but to people and their town and parish councils across Cornwall, to reflect local identities, aspirations and needs.
With elections for parish, town as well as Cornwall Councils just around the corner, now is the time to be discussing these new opportunities, to draw up plans that could lead to Cornwall trail blazing a new and exciting approach to local democracy.
There is no doubt in my mind that a new approach is needed. At my surgeries every week and in my postbag every day I hear from people who feel that their views don’t count as decisions about the future of their area are taken. Most of the time this is not the fault of hard working individuals at Cornwall Council, but is the legacy of the imposition of a Truro-based unitary authority on the Duchy against the wishes of local residents.
Cornwall Council has achieved many important improvements to valued public services while dealing with cutbacks in funding from central government. But we need to move forward with a new approach where residents of towns and villages across Cornwall have the opportunity to actively shape the policies that will affect their communities for years to come.
For this democratic renewal to take place, we need talented and committed individuals to come forward to stand as candidates, for Cornwall Council, parish and town council elections.
It is only with this commitment from community-minded local residents that we can move towards a system where more and more policies are not imposed from Whitehall or County Hall, but grown from village and town halls.
Do we really need a costly extra level of politicians in an Assembly to enable people in Cornwall to take control of our destiny? I think not. In these difficult and challenging times, more than ever, we need to pool the talents of everyone in each community to work together for a hopeful future.