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Cornwall agrees to boundary review in return for devo deal

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Creating more than 500 jobs, at least 100 new specialist businesses, and growing the region’s economy by 5% by the end of the decade are among the commitments included in Cornwall’s devolution deal.

In return for new powers and control over budgets and assets worth £5bn, Cornwall Council has also agreed to request that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England conduct a review in 2017. The boundary review is “expected” to recommend a reduction in the council’s 123 councillors, the devolution deal’s terms of agreement said.

The council has more councillors than the country’s largest local authority, Birmingham City Council, despite serving a population around half the size. This is a hangover from the move to unitary government in 2009 which saw the abolition of six districts and the old Cornwall CC.

In addition, in return for power to decide how to spend £422m EU funding in the county, the council has committed to adding £57m to that pot. The council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership have promised to use the money to create 500 new jobs, provide training for 700 others, and assist 400 businesses.

Cornwall will also be given control of a budget of about £200m to improve employment and skills opportunities by redesigning training and learning provision, improving careers advice, and developing new apprenticeship opportunities. In return Cornwall must reduce unemployment and improve the skills of the county’s workforce.

For having a greater say in the way businesses access and receive support to aid growth, the region has agreed to LEP targets of helping 2,350 enterprises, investing in 23,375 jobs, creating more than 100 specialist businesses, and increasing the region’s productivity and generating 5% growth in the area’s economy by 2020.

The agreement did not go into detail about how success against these commitments would be measured, or what would happen if they were not met.

The devolution deal will aslo see Cornwall take control of £1.8bn health and social care budgets from April 2016. The council, the Council of the Isles of Scilly and Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, as well as NHS England, have pledged to reduce accident and emergency attendances and avoidable hospital admissions.

In return for receiving powers to franchise bus services by 2018, Cornwall will be set targets which will include growing bus passenger numbers. The council will also contribute £2.35m funding for improvements to vehicles, transport infrastructure, public transport information, and ticketing.

The terms of agreement were signed by Cornwall Council leader John Pollard (Ind), Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership chair Chris Pomfret, Kernow CCG chair Dr Iain Chorlton, and communities secretary Greg Clark.

Greater Manchester’s leaders have also signed up to commitments, the most high profile of which was the adoption of an elected mayor. But the original devolution deal also included a commitment to commission independent assessments every five years on whether projects funded by Greater Manchester’s earnback deal, worth up to £900m over 30 years, had been delivered on time, to budget, and had the desired economic impact.

Greater Manchester’s agreement also “guaranteed” the Treasury will receive at least 80%, plus interest, back on a £300m funding pot which will be used by the region as loans to help construction companies build more than 10,000 homes over the next decade.

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