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Cornish resistance against bid to unite economy in 'Devonwall' partnership

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: July 29, 2010

Sandra Rothwell

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Plans to create a peninsula-wide body to boost the economic prospects of the Westcountry have been virtually killed off by resistance in Cornwall.

The Western Morning News understands a statement is soon expected on the economic relationship between Devon and Cornwall as the deadline nears for alternative plans to the sprawling South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), which is soon to be abolished.

But a formal "Devonwall" partnership, championed so the region can punch its weight when bidding for Whitehall funding, has been largely rejected in Cornwall.

Details of Cornwall Council's intentions have emerged after a motion in support of the formation of a local enterprise partnership (LEP) representing the county was unanimously passed by councillors.

Sandra Rothwell, head of economic development of Cornwall Council, who is assembling the local authority's bid, indicated that a "bespoke" body for Cornwall, and possibly the Isles of Scilly, was the favoured option.

But she added the county would work with the rest of the Westcountry "where it is appropriate", hinting at a memorandum of understanding across the region.

She said: "We are still working through what that (an LEP) might look like, such as potentially a private sector chair. But there is a strong case for a bespoke body. However, it is agreed we will work with our peninsula partners, particularly on lobbying for transport and connectivity. There will be conversations with Plymouth and Devon."

LEP applications have to be submitted to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills by September 6.

Unlike RDAs, where regions are allocated hundreds of millions of pounds, enterprise partnerships across the country will fight each other for money from a central government pot.

The case for a standalone economic body is strengthened by Cornwall qualifying for European Union subsidy and last year moving to unitary authority status.

Yet the formation of an LEP for Cornwall could yet run into controversy over fears that there is a reluctance to forge relationships with business.

George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, has set up a commission to ensure the voice of business is heard, arguing that the coalition Government is demanding partnerships are led by the business community.

His commission has secured the backing of senior directors of some of the country's biggest companies – all with connections to Cornwall – so industry can "call the shots".

Peter Clarke, founder of bed manufacturer Silentnight, and ex-CBI chief Sir John Banham are supporting the commission, Mr Eustice says.

Bob Pepper of timber company Frame UK, David Brewer of laundry firm Brewer and Bunney and Philip Kelly of Kelly's Ice Cream are also involved.

Mr Eustice said: "Too often in the past, economic development has just been run by the public sector through the RDAs.

"When it comes to the new LEP, Cornish business must be in the driver's seat and will increasingly call the shots."

Councils in Devon had been working up plans to form a "peninsula-based" Devon and Cornwall LEP, and last night expressed disappointment that Cornwall appeared to be going alone. Devon County Council's cabinet member for economic regeneration and strategic planning Councillor William Mumford said: "Devon and Cornwall are going to have to fight for funding and we're going to be up against very big regional LEPs, particularly in the north ."

Businesses have become increasingly frustrated with the troubled Cornwall Development Company, an arm of Cornwall Council, and fear the same could be repeated with an LEP.

Two people have been offered its chief executive role before knocking it back.

Alex Folkes, Liberal Democrat councillor for Launceston Central, who tabled the council motion, said a Cornwall LEP would not be "isolationist". He argues a Westcountry-wide LEP would be torn between loyalties to Devon and Cornwall.

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    avonbeg, Truro  |  August 03 2010, 3:27AM

    SarhaJ Devon is nothing like Cornwall. Devon just trys to steal Cornwalls heritage. The Tories and Liberals tried to bring in Devon-wall in the 70's it did not work then and will not work now. Cornwall has lived in Devon's shadow for to long

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    cee cee, Cornwall, England  |  August 02 2010, 3:52PM

    Some of these comments are so funny! As someone has already mentioned, if some people are so adamant that the Cornish language is alive, then why are they writing their comments in English?

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    Redneck, Praa Sands  |  July 30 2010, 8:40PM

    I have not a clue what Amy is nattering on about. Once we allow Devon to dominate us Cornwall will fall we will be forced to speak English and call ourselves English Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few., join the Celtic league and fight the invasion http://www.cornwall24.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5754&sid=2e01cb28bcd95c21772e4810754a1b15&start=15

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    Amy, Falmouth  |  July 30 2010, 12:33PM

    @Gary Well, the Devon and Cornwall Business Council is one of the most fervent proponents of a Devonwall LEP. Claiming to represent all business in Cornwall and Devon, it is actually a Devon-based clique, with only one of its six directors being from Cornwall (Saltash), and only THREE of its 51 member business being in Cornwall. You'll also have noticed that the West Briton, Cornish Guardian and Western Morning News, all owned by the Devon-based "Cornwall & Devon Media Ltd" (owned by Northcliffe, which is owned by the Daily Mail), got in very early trumpeting their support of a Devonwall LEP that will help the "Westcountry" Do they support "Devonwall" because it's in OUR interests? Or do they support it because it's in THEIR interests?

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    Gary, Saltash  |  July 30 2010, 9:30AM

    The only ones who support the "Devonwall" project are Devon-based business interests who stand to profit from it. Amy, Falmouth A very simple comment to make, but based around what facts, where are getting this inform, I suspect from people whose interests are based around self preservation rather than what is for the greater good, all the people above have some form of vested interest in being against linking up with Devon mainly due to a line on a map. The only people who can complain are the people of Devon because Cornwall is bound to make on the deal given we by rights should only receive 33% share, when I suspect most things will be shared

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    Big Ger, Truro  |  July 30 2010, 8:31AM

    Sam., yes I apologies, I was wrong, Devon does indeed have twice the population of Cornwall. That was a genuine mistake, I should have checked first. The rest of my points stand. The council and others want to have the sole control over any LEP, independent of Devon for the sole reason that it gives them more "jobs for the boys" The smaller sum Cornwall will receive will be determined by the ability of an LEP to push hard, therfore it makes sense to be part of the larger "two county" bid, as it will carry more clout The jobs administering this, the running costs, and all other incidentals which could have easily been spread across two counties, will now be solely bourn by Cornwall, meaning there will be far less cash to spend on Cornish projects. There is also the probability that industry will move away from Cornwall as the bigger LEP's will be able to offer better incentives. This "independence" could result in Cornwall being marginalised further, and losing out on a great deal. The only ray of light I can see is that if Cornwall gets it's own LEP, then at least some here (not talking about you here) will not be able to blame "The English", or "London Parties" or "outsiders" if it all goes wrong. Though I suspect a Cornish LEP would have to draw talent in, and employ a proportion of the LEP staff, from outside the area to run it, in order to employ those with experience in the area. Just as K Laverty esq. was brought in to run the county council.

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    R. Williams, Essa  |  July 30 2010, 12:03AM

    Brilliantly put Sam, Redruth and I concur with you (and the 123 Councillors and M.P.'s entirely) You are also correct in noting that Cornwall would not have received one cent of Euro funding if it were linked with Devon. Sadly many here seem to exist to throw nasty and juvenile comments around at anyone who chooses to stand up for Cornwall. I have every confidence and faith that the people of Cornwall can control their own affairs, raise their own taxes, draw in their own business and so on. I note Gary's silly comments below. I live in the same town sadly. Fortunately, his Mayor and local council are at variance with his singularly unpleasant and increasingly bitter views. My, my Gary, you talk of spelling. At least my errors are 'typos' - what excuse do you offer for your spelling and grammatical errors. Look at the plank in your own eye first as the Good Book says. What a nasty individual you are.

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    Sam, Redruth  |  July 29 2010, 11:13PM

    Well BigGer, every single one of our 123 democratically elected councillors sat at County Hall would disagree with you. They voted *unanimously* for a Cornwall and Scilly Partnership. The chief executive Kevin Lavery wants a Cornwall and Scilly Partnership. And our MPs in Westminster want a Cornwall and Scilly Partnership. Even Vince Cable and David Cameron have said that there should be a Cornwall and Scilly Partnership! Oh and Cornwall has half Devon's population, not a quarter. What would you say to the fact that because of EU funds, Cornwall's GDP has been dragged up from 62% in the 1990s to 75%+ now. All without the "help" of Devon. In fact, if we were still joined at the hip with Devon in a NUTS region, we wouldn't have had any EU funds in the first place. We have the know-how and the ability to look after our own economy. A Cornwall LEP gives us a direct link to government - our interests get presented to government and our interests alone, not the combined interests of "Devonwall" hashed out of a compromise where Cornwall's interests are undermined. We do not have to be dependent on other areas forever. Try to have a bit of faith in Cornwall's abilities. We can go it alone and we can get it right, on our terms, because we know what's best for Cornwall. We don't have to be joined at the hip with Devon in order to work with it. We can work with Devon and the South West when it suits us, as equal partners. Equal partners, not subservient.

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    Big Ger, Truro  |  July 29 2010, 10:43PM

    So we should be happy with 33%? Or we can go it alone and get 100%. Sam, Redruth Yes, Sam, we could go it alone and get 100% of CORNWALL"s share, which would be a great deal less than we would have access to in combination with Devon. Cornwall may get a little extra for being so poor, but this would nowhere near compensate for the huge loss of funds by going it alone. As has been pointed out, Cornwall has 1/4 the population of Devon, and has less infrastructure both physical and in terms of human resources. Giving Cornwall independence in this matter means that we would get access to far less money, and MORE would be swallowed up in administration costs, less would be spend on development, and less would be achieved. Oh sure there would be a hint of "independence", but the reality means that it would be meaningless and would in fact work against Cornish interests. I wonder why the idea of "cooperation" is so alien to some? The economic ignorance shown by some here is startling.

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    john, launceston  |  July 29 2010, 5:20PM

    when will the Cornish learn that prosperity will only come on the back of Devonshire. isolationism equals poverty