Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Newspaper column 8 March 2017 - Growth Deal funding for Cornwall

The recent announcement of £18 million from the Government under the Growth Deal to support the Cornish economy has attracted much attention in the local media, including some criticism from the usual rounds of naysayers.

Some are claiming that this shows the Government is not committed to Cornwall and will not be replacing the funding Cornwall has been receiving through the EU, now that we are leaving. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful if I were to put the record straight and dispel some of the myths being reported.

The Growth Deal 3 is, as the title suggest, the third round in the Government’s programme of investment to support regional economies. Cornwall has benefited significantly from the previous two rounds and this is in addition to and separate from the EU Regional Development Fund.
Cornwall’s Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) bid for Growth Deal funding was for £127m. The bidding process is a competition where bids are considered from across the country. The total bids this year were more than three times oversubscribed with over £6 billion of bids for a £1.8 billion pot of money. Therefore, it was always likely we would not be getting anywhere near what we hoped for. Although we all wished that Cornwall’s bid could have been stronger and attracted more but funding.
Of course, the usual naysayers were quick to jump to attack the Government here, crying out that this proves that the Government will not be replacing European Union funding lost we when we leave the EU.

This just simply isn’t the case though and it is disappointing to see people scaremongering in this way. We haven’t even started the formal process of leaving the EU yet. Cornwall is still getting EU funding under the current programme and the Government has committed to underwrite and support the current programme until 2020.Growth Deal 3 funding was never supposed to be a replacement for EU funding.

What this funding does give us is investment in science and innovation which will provide specific support for space, aerospace and marine renewable energy activity through the LEP’s Enterprise Zones. This is expected to lever in £20 million of additional investment, creating 400 new better paid jobs. Crucially it will support Cornwall Airport Newquay’s continued ambitions to be the UK’s first Spaceport, a bid which I have backed from the start.

It is also completely untrue to say the Government is not investing in Cornwall. I am proud if this Government’s support for Cornwall to date as evidenced by the soon to be completed dualling of the A30 at Temple. In Mid-Cornwall I have been working on the vital link road from the A30 to St Austell and the surrounding area - this £85million scheme is supported by and will be financed entirely by the Government. We are also seeing more investment in our rail infrastructure with state of the art new trains recently entering production for the Paddington to Penzance line. The fact is this Government is investing in Cornwall far more than we have seen for the previous 20 years.

Of course, once we begin to negotiate our exit from the EU we can also start to consider a replacement for the EU funding Cornwall currently receives. I can assure people that I continually remind Government Ministers of the need for a substantial programme of support going forward and always receive a positive response.

But those discussions are for another day. For now let us focus on making sure the funding we do have, whether through the UK Government or the EU is spent as wisely and effectively as possible. I am sure the people of Cornwall would much rather those at County Hall responsible for administering it spent more time focused on how it is spent rather than whinging and trying to score political points all of the time.