Monday, 25 May 2009 21:26
On 1 April 2009 Cornwall's county, borough and district councils joined together to form a new unitary authority for Cornwall.
The new Cornwall Council will be responsible for housing, environmental health, education, leisure and roads in Cornwall.
Before April 2009, Cornwall was administered as a non-metropolitan English county with a "two tier" system of local government.
In the "two tier" system of government in Cornwall there was a Cornwall County Council sharing local administration with six other District and Borough councils: Caradon, Carrick, Kerrier, North Cornwall, Penwith, and Restormel.
With the new unitary authority, Cornwall County Council becomes known as Cornwall Council and assumes the powers of the six District councils, which are now abolished.
Cornwall Council will have an annual budget of approximately £450 million and a staff of more than 22,000, making it the largest single employer in the county.
Cornwall Council centralises county government in Truro
As Cornwall's six former District councils were scrapped and replaced by the unitary Cornwall Council, all the new authority administration was centralised in Truro.
With a population over 20,900, Truro is Cornwall's capital for administration, business, and culture. Besides Cornwall Council, the city is also the seat of Cornwall's Courts of Justice, BBC Radio Cornwall, ITV West, the county-wide newspaper The West Briton, the Theatre Hall for Cornwall and the Royal Cornwall Museum.
Truro is strategically located in the centre of the county and only 19km from Cornwall's main airport, Newquay Airport.
Council leaders claim unitary authority will deliver better services to Cornwall
Cornwall County Council applied for unitary status in 2006 after the UK Government invited "two tier" councils in England to submit proposals for re-organising local government.
Cornish political leaders claimed an unified council would be more efficient, would have stronger lobbying powers, would save the tax payers money, and would serve the people better by reducing layers of administration.
In the former "two tier" system, public services such as council tax and social care were responsibility of the District council or the Cornwall County Council. With the unitary Cornwall Council all the services are centralised by the new authority, avoiding duplicity and resulting in simpler access to services for people.
In 2007, Cornwall County Council predicted the new unitary authority would save taxpayers £17m a year.
Isles of Scilly remains a separate unitary authority
Off the west coast of mainland Cornwall, the Council of the Isles of Scilly will remain a separate unitary authority and will not be part of the new Cornwall Council.
The Isles of Scilly were historically part of Cornwall, and although they are currently administered by their own Council of the Isles of Scilly, the islands are still grouped with Cornwall for ceremonial and public services such as the Police or the National Health Service.
Opponents say Government ignored local people who did not want change
Some councillors in the now abolished District and Borough councils of Caradon, Carrick, Kerrier, North Cornwall, Penwith and Restormel opposed the creation of the unitary Cornwall Council claiming the new authority would be too centralised and undemocratic.
Councillor Roger Harding, from the dissolved Penwith District Council said: "Important decisions about Penwith are going to be made in Truro in future."
Devolution supporters say unitary council may gain more powers
In 2007 Cornwall County Council leader David Whalley said a unitary local government authority for Cornwall would be "the beginning" and greater government powers could be devolved to the new council.
In a letter sent to the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr Whalley wrote "We would be keen to work with Government and offer Cornwall as an area where new ideas about devolution of responsibilities can be tried out."
Cornwall's major political parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party, are generally supportive of greater Cornish autonomy.
In November 2000, a cross-party Cornish Constitutional Convention was formed to campaign for a devolved regional Cornish Assembly. The campaign collected nearly 50,000 signatures including those of the five Cornish Liberal-Democrats MPs in London.
Cornwall Council elections to be held on 4 June 2009
Elections to the new Cornwall Council will take place on 4 June 2009.
Cornwall Council Chief Executive Kevin Lavery said the election "is a milestone in the development of local government in Cornwall and we are determined that the creation of the new single Council will be as smooth as possible."
» Cornwall Council
» Cornwall Council 2007 Unitary Bid Proposal
» Campaign for a Cornish Assembly