Before the establishment of County Councils in 1888, much county administration was carried out by the Clerk of the Peace and the Justices of the Peace in The Court of Quarter Sessions.
By the end of the 19th century it became evident that one major local authority was preferable to a variety of local ad hoc boards, and the 1881 Local Government Act resulted in a major reorganisation of county administration. County Councils were established, with members elected by rate-payers, and aldermen by the councillors. The life of a council was three years. The new county councils took over the administrative functions of the Clerk of the Peace and Quarter Sessions, although the Justices of the Peace continued to share responsibility for policing through the Standing Joint Committee (see the Police section).
County Councils acquired additional responsibilities over the next 30 years: for education in 1902 (see the Schools section), and for highways and public assistance in 1929 (see under Highway Boards and Poor Law Unions). From 1931 to 1937, the Public Assistance Committee also had responsibility for 'transitional' unemployment relief (payments not covered by insurance contributions). The 1946 National Health Service and National Assistance Acts transferred many of these responsibilities to the newly formed National Assistance Board, while legislation arising from Seebohm Committee report of 1968 combined the work of separate committees and officers in a single Social Services department. In 1944, County Councils took over responsibility for the provision of water supplies to rural areas, and they became the responsible planning authorities under the 1947 Town and Country planning Act.
With the reorganisation of local government after 1972, the office of alderman was abolished and councillors were elected for four year terms. Meetings of the Council and it principal committees were to be open to the press and public. New water authorities took over responsibility for water supplies, and the council's remaining health functions were transferred to new regional health authorities. The new District Councils (post 1974) became the authorities for town and country planning, although the County Council retained responsibility for planning at strategic (county) level. In 1978, the work of vehicle and driver licensing was taken over by a central body under the Ministry of Transport. In 2009 local government reorganisation saw the merger of Cornwall County Council and the six Cornish District Councils, to form one Cornish local authority, 'Cornwall Council'.
Available at CRO
Records of most Council's services and departments have been transferred to the Record Office, and many core records are transferred on a regular basis, such as minutes and annual reports (catalogue reference CC).
The main sections are as follows:
- County Council minutes (CC1/1) and agendas (CC 2/1), 1889-present administrative records (CC 3/1); reports, handbooks, etc (CC/GEN)
- Committees minutes of committees (CC 1/2-1/39); also supplementary and administrative papers for may committees, such as boundary review and parliamentary papers, including papers relating to the County of Cornwall Bill 1929 (General Purposes and parliamentary committee, CC 3/8), motor taxation registers (Local Taxation committee, CC3/13), Sea Fisheries papers (CC 3/9), air raid reports (Civil Defence Committee, CC 3/23), Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry papers (CC 3/29)
- Statutory Functions Land Charges plans for highway improvement schemes etc (CC 4/1-114,118); Emergency Planning (CC 4/117)
- Departmental records including Education (CC/ED), Fire Brigade (CC/FB), Highways (CC/H), Planning (CC/P), Treasurer (CC/A-W).