DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called on Cornwall to address its transport and social deprivation issues using the money the Duchy has secured as part of a breakthrough £198m Growth Deal announced earlier today.
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Cornwall Council have secured £198m to create 4,000 jobs and 6,000 new homes by 2021, and crucially the decision powers to spend this money have been taken away from Westminster following a government U-turn.
Cornish business leaders were furious when the government wanted to strip Cornwall of its independence to spend the European funding destined for the region, and a letter signed by all the party group leaders on Cornwall Council was sent to Mr Clegg expressing concern.
The Growth Deal, part of a national announcement of similar deals across England, follows months of talks, and will see the government invest £49m- mostly in the next two years, unlocking a further £149m from the public and private sector.
This is in addition to the £520 million of European Union funding that has been ring-fenced for Cornwall; between now and 2020 the LEP will oversee an estimated £1 billion investment in the local economy.
Mr Clegg visited the St Austell Brewery warehouse and distribution centre in St Columb Major earlier today to officially announce the deal, and called on the local authorities now tasked with spending the money to address Cornwall’s long standing transport and social deprivation issues.
“I think you need to do two big things; you need to make sure that those areas of social deprivation are properly addressed and the European funds are absolutely essential in that, and making sure that those funds are run, managed and decided upon by decision makers who understand the unique needs of Cornwall is essential,” Mr Clegg said.
“The second thing you need to do is make sure that Cornwall is properly connected - broadband connection, improvements to the sleeper service, establishing the public service obligation at Newquay airport - connect Cornwall to the rest of the country and the rest of the world.
“I think today is a specially significant day because there are real areas of deprivation unfortunately still in Cornwall, which rely really heavily on having properly targeted help from those European funds, and the fact those funds are now going to be in the hands of Cornish decision makers rather than Whitehall bureaucrats will make a huge difference. Address those two big things and I think you’ve got the recipe for great success.”
Stephen Gilbert, MP for St Austell & Newquay, said the most crucial part of the deal is not the amount of money invested, but the devolution of decision making and spending powers from Westminster to Cornwall.
Mr Gilbert said: “I think this is a great deal for Cornwall, it is extra money, but crucially it is also more decision making power. It puts local people in the driving seat for ensuring Cornwall’s economic development going forward.
“It is breaking the long-arm of Whitehall and allowing local decision making, so what we’re seeing over the next six years in Cornwall is about a billion pounds worth of investment across all sectors of Cornwall’s economy, to really get it motoring.
“It’s not going to be Whitehall sitting in the driving seat for that, it’s going to be local people here in Cornwall, closer to the problems and closer to the needs.”
Chris Pomfret, chairman of the LEP, said the partnership has received more money than expected.
“The power to make decisions in Cornwall is what is key here,” he said. “We’ve got more than our fair share in the bidding process by putting together a better plan than the other LEP’s we came up against in the bidding process did.”
John Pollard, Leader of Cornwall Council, said securing the deal has been the result of a team effort between the LEP, local authorities and MPs and the business community.
“I’m absolutely delighted we’ve got a big proportion of the funding that we’ve had to bid for, especially with the competition we were up against from across the rest of the country.”
When asked if Cornwall has been ignored by the central government for too long, Mr Clegg distanced the Liberal Democrats from such negligence.
“The Liberal Democrat heritage, voice, and attachment to Cornwall is incredibly strong, and is as strong today as it ever was,” he said. “I think time and time again we’ve tried to reverse the indifference that previous governments have shown to Cornwall.”
Further Growth Deals will follow, and the LEP will shortly start discussions about its priorities for the next round of deals.
GROWTH DEAL – SUMMARY OF KEY PROJECTS
A38 CORNWALL GATEWAY: Improvements to Carkeel Junction that will deliver benefits to Cornwall’s connectivity with the UK and accelerate new employment and housing development in Saltash. Growth Deal contribution: £3.5m
NEWQUAY GROWTH AREA: Supporting access to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’s Enterprise Zone at Aerohub at Newquay Cornwall Airport, and housing and employment in the Newquay Growth Area through delivery of transport improvements along the Newquay Strategic Route. Growth Deal contribution: £2m.
FALMOUTH GATEWAY: Improvements include a new roundabout junction to unblock a key pinch point on the highway network that will accelerate housing and employment growth in support of Cornwall’s strategic education and employment sites. Growth Deal contribution: £0.9m
BODMIN - CORNWALL'S CYCLING TOWN: Improvements to the extensive walking and cycling network in Bodmin to accelerate growth in the local economy and create a more sustainable travel pattern. Growth Deal contribution: £5.8m
TRURO WESTERN CORRIDOR: Package of schemes to accelerate housing and jobs growth along a key corridor into Truro, including capacity improvements at Threemilestone roundabout and the delivery of critical walking and cycle links along the Western Corridor. Growth Deal contribution: £8.2m
NIGHT RIVIERA SLEEPER SERVICE: Improvements to the Night Riviera Sleeper Service including increased capacity, upgraded sleeper berths and lounge area and space for bicycles and surf boards. This is part of a package of projects supported by Government that will see the Traincare Centre for maintenance of the Sleeper Service relocated to Penzance. Growth Deal contribution: £7m
INCREASING BUSINESS ENGAGEMENT WITH SCHOOLS: Government will work with the LEP to explore the feasibility of implementing a programme of Enterprise Advisers in line with Lord Young’s recommendation in his review ‘Enterprise for All’, in addition to wider activities to link local businesses with schools.
PROVISIONAL ALLOCATIONS FOR PROJECTS STARTING IN 2016:
BUS NETWORK IMPROVEMENTS: Package of improvements to the bus network to facilitate the access to employment, skills and services required by a growing economy. Growth Deal contribution: £8m
WEST CORNWALL TRANSPORT INTERCHANGE: Creation of a new bus rail interchange including improvements to the A30 junction, Parkway Station and refurbished and improved passenger facilities. Growth Deal contribution: £4.5m
The Growth Deal includes a further £8.9 million of funding which the Government has previously committed to large scale transport schemes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It is the first major tranche of funding needed to deliver the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Strategic Economic Plan that was launched earlier this year.