Cornwall Council leader Linda Taylor has dropped plans to seek an enhanced devolution deal for Cornwall which would require a directly elected mayor. 

The Conservative councillor issued a statement this morning saying that she would not be recommending to her Cabinet a proposal to seek a Level 3 deal.

The announcement comes a week after results of a public consultation on the issue was published which showed that 69 per cent of people were opposed to the devolution deal and a Mayor for Cornwall. Under the plans Cornwall Council was seeking a Level 3 deal with the government which would have devolved some powers to the council and provided £390million of additional funding.

Cllr Taylor said instead that she would be asking her cabinet to pursue a Level 2 deal and secure as many responsibilities as possible from the government. The cabinet is set to have an extraordinary meeting tomorrow to discuss the matter.

There had been a campaign for a referendum to be held to decide whether Cornwall should accept the deal and have a mayor. Let Cornwall Decide, a group set up to secure a referendum, said this morning that they were pleased that Cllr Taylor had “seen sense”.

In her statement Cllr Taylor said: “As a cabinet we have always believed that devolution of powers and investment from government is vital for the future prosperity of Cornwall. This is why we are so proud to have been asked last year to negotiate a further devolution deal with government.

“During the ten-week consultation we have heard from thousands of residents, businesses and stakeholders from across Cornwall and have listened carefully to their views. It is clear that support has especially come from our young people, businesses and strategic partners who have all seen the benefit for the future of Cornwall.

“However, whilst there is considerable support for the proposed Cornwall Devolution Deal, there is also significant concern about the requirement to move to a directly elected mayor.

“In order to deliver on our commitment to the people of Cornwall that we will always listen and, where needed, take difficult decisions, it is with the greatest regret that I am unable to recommend to my cabinet accepting a deal that includes the requirement for a directly elected mayor during the remainder of this administration. 

“I will instead be recommending that the council pursue a Level 2 deal that seeks to retain as many of the elements of the Level 3 deal as possible, including those that were overwhelmingly supported through the consultation, such as a £10m per year devolved adult education budget so that training and skills provision meets the needs of the local economy. This cannot be the end for devolution in Cornwall, indeed as a Cabinet, we remain committed to our goal of having more decisions about Cornwall being made locally.

“While a Level 2 deal does not include the £360m investment fund, or the £8.7m promised for brownfield housing development, there are a number of areas where we can work with government to secure the best possible outcome for Cornwall and our residents, while recognising that devolution is a continuous process and not the result of a single negotiated event.”

Graham Webster, from Let Cornwall Decide, said: “I am delighted really. The mayor has always been the contentious part of the offer and so we are really pleased that Linda Taylor has seen sense at long last in making that recommendation.

“There has been a strong voice in Cornwall to suggest to her that they didn’t want a mayor, the MPs have said they oppose the requirement in the deal to have a mayor, or at least four of them have, including George Eustice. And recently Michael Gove spoke at a select committee and said the mayor model was not necessarily the right thing for all areas of the country.

“The consultation sent a very strong message to Linda that people did not want this, it is a victory for the people that the council is now dropping this. We need devolution and we need more powers and more money, there is no question about that, but to lock it with an enforced mayor was not the right thing to do. Now that Linda has seen sense we hope that the Government will see sense too.

“It would be the wrong thing to penalise Cornwall for this, they need to look up and see that Cornwall is a very special place and we need a special arrangement.”

Independent councillor Tim Dwelly, who was an early outspoken critic of the plans for a directly elected mayor, said he hoped the council would work with the government to secure the “right deal for Cornwall”.

“I was against the mayor long before the Conservatives took over Cornwall Council and was horrified to see the chief executive pushing the mayor option when we were running the council and the council was against the mayor.

“When this whole ridiculous proposal came forward I was quick to warn colleagues that it would be a disaster for Cornwall to have one person in charge. The work done by Let Cornwall decide and other campaigns to challenge something that never made sense should never be forgotten.

“Now we need to focus on the real things that matter in Cornwall, the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis, climate change…there have to be serious questions asked about why our council took its eye off the ball to pursue this vanity project instead of focusing on the things that matter to local people’s lives.”

He added: “We now have the prospect of a Government punishing Cornwall for having the audacity to want to have its own say on how it is governed. We must not allow that to happen. The focus now should be on a real devolution deal for the things that matter to Cornwall.”