SECRETARY of State for Justice Chris Grayling believes Cornwall’s economic problems can be overcome – but only if the overall economy “keeps moving in the right direction”.
Statistics recently produced by Eurostat - the EU's equivalent of the office of national statistics – show that along with the Welsh valleys Cornwall is the UK's poorest region, and is in the top ten most deprived areas in Western Europe.
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been warned of falling into a “permanent” cycle of welfare dependency by Lord Teverson, a former Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Cornwall and West Plymouth who played a key role in getting Brussels aid for the Duchy in the late-1990s.
A member of the Conservatives, Mr Grayling visited Cornwall today to support his party’s parliamentary candidates in the area ahead of next year’s general election, and also met with police inspector for Newquay Dave Meredith and members of crime-busting group Newquay Safe.
Mr Grayling said that if the country’s overall economy - which he says is the fastest growing in the western world - keeps improving, then Cornwall will reap the benefits.
“In terms of the economic strategy for Cornwall, things are moving in the right direction, but I still think there’s a long way to go,” Mr Grayling said.
“There are particular challenges- including geographic challenges and localised economic challenges, but Cornwall cannot succeed if the economy is moving in the wrong direction.”
The area has been lavished with £1 billion of EU grants since the mid-1990s to overcome the decline of traditional industries that has left some parts of Poland, Lithuania and Hungary wealthier.
Mr Grayling said he hopes his party can continue to move the economy in the right direction by winning next year’s general election.
“Step by step the economy is now growing, faster than any country in the western world, and we are delivering long term solutions to economic problems,” he said.
“We have record numbers of people in employment and we’ve seen big falls in unemployment, so what Cornwall needs is more of that because that ultimately is what will deliver a better environment in Cornwall generally.
“What Cornwall needs above all else is economic activity; it needs investment, it needs jobs, and if the economy is doing better then there are more opportunities for Cornwall and its then a stronger place.”