Cornwall is the first county to gain ‘historic’ new powers under the Government’s devolution agenda, with control of bus services, adult skills and regional investment handed to the unitary council.
Under the deal, Cornwall Council will take over responsibility for franchising bus services by 2018 making it the first rural unitary authority to gain this power, and as in Manchester health and social services will also be brought together.
Prime minister David Cameron said: ‘This devolution deal marks a major shift for the people who live and work in Cornwall – putting power in their hands and giving them the tools to take charge and make the most of the fantastic potential that Cornwall holds.
‘And, alongside our long term economic plan, which has created 19,000 jobs in Cornwall since 2010 and will deliver tax cuts to benefit 2.6 million people in the region, we are determined to continue to deliver and make sure opportunity and prosperity reaches every corner of our country.’
The council will have intermediate body status under the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund, which will allow it to select projects from April 2016, government officials said.
The organisation of such local arrangements caused embarrassment for ministers earlier this year, as EU rules prevented Local Enterprise Partnership taking control of European funding as the Government had hoped.
The new set up will make it easier for the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership to integrate national and local business support services to help local firms grow, ministers said.
It will also enable Cornwall Council and the council of the Isles of Scilly to work with local health organisations to integrate health and social care services.
Cornwall Council leader John Pollard said: ‘This devolution deal is brilliant news for Cornwall. We were early in recognising the growing momentum of the national agenda for devolving powers from Westminster and, by creating a “case for Cornwall” which was strong and realistic. We have had a positive response from the Government. Cornwall is, therefore, the first rural authority in the country to be given a devolution deal. This gives Cornwall greater powers over public sector funding.
‘This is the first stage of a longer journey towards delivering the full case for Cornwall. We will now be working with partners to develop an integrated health and social care system, and deliver significant economic growth, with enhanced business support, greater access to employment and training opportunities, together with a much improved public transport network and more efficient use of public sector buildings.’