Cornwall agrees first devolution deal for rural authority

Cornwall Council has become the first rural authority in England to agree a formal devolution deal.

The deal, which brings together the council, the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and the NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, covers transport, health and social care, employment and skills, EU funding, business support, energy, the public estate and heritage and culture.

Prime Minister David Cameron and local government secretary Greg Clark will travel to the county to support the formal signing.

Under the agreement, Cornwall will become the first rural authority with the power to franchise bus services. Ministers have also agreed to devolve central funding for local transport, providing £50m to create an integrated public transport system with smart ticketing, fares and timetables for combined travel between bus, rail and ferries.

Elsewhere, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly councils will work with NHS Kernow and other local partners, as well as NHS England, to develop a business plan for the integration of health and social care services.

Training and learning provision will reshaped to provide new apprenticeship opportunities and to improve careers advice for young people.

In addition, the council and LEP will work with central government to integrate national and local business support to make it easier for local firms to find the help they need. The agreement aims to have devolved business support services in place from 2017.

Cornwall has also been given the green light for a low carbon Enterprise Zone and to develop geothermal energy production.

Other measures include an agreement to grant Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Intermediary Body status, meaning decision on allocating over €600m in European funding will now be made locally rather than at Westminster.

The county will also work with partners including the Environment Agency, South West Water and the South West Regional Flood Committee to create a joint investment programme to improve coastal defences.

Finally, the Government has pledged its support to the creation of a Cornish Heritage Environment Forum.

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," the Prime Minister said.

"This devolution deal is brilliant news for Cornwall," said council leader Cllr John Pollard.

"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."