News that the Government is giving London and eight major UK cities the power to decide how to spend their European funding while denying these powers to Cornwall has been condemned by Julian German, the Council’s cabinet member for culture and the economy.
In a letter to Cornwall Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership earlier this month, Lord Ahmad, Minister for Communities and Local Government, confirmed that decisions on individual projects in all other areas, including Cornwall, would be made by Managing Authorities and not by local bodies.
Blaming the decision on European Commission regulations, Lord Ahmad said that continuing discussions on the issue ran the risk of creating an impasse with the Commission which could further delay the release of funds. As a result the Government was intending to proceed with a model in which LEPs and partners have a key advisory role while decisions remained with the Managing Authorities.
Responding to the letter Julian German said he was angry and disappointed at the Government’s decision. “Last summer the sun was shining on Cornwall and our negotiations with Government on the next European Investment Programme, worth over €600 million between 2014-2020,” he said.
“I was delighted with the way things were going and was reassured by statements from Ministers on both sides of the Coalition that decisions would be made by those who know best; the businesses and communities of Cornwall.”
“Projects dreamed up in London, for big cities, just won’t work here because our challenges and opportunities are our own”
This included comments from Minister of State, Greg Clark, who said: “It’s obvious if you are based in Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly your ability to say what intervention, what investment is appropriate, is far more accurate and well-informed than if you are an official sitting miles away in London”; with Danny Alexander commenting: “It would seem odd not to take seriously the request that there should be a degree of autonomy in the management of the European structural funds programme.”
“There were indeed warm words, but as the weather has got colder; so has the promise of greater devolution and decision making,” added German.
“In fact, it’s now clear following Nick Clegg’s recent announcement that we will only provide ‘advice’ on what to spend the regions money on and decisions will indeed be made by civil servants in London.
“We are one of the poorest regions in Europe and Cornwall needs brave, bespoke investment decisions to grow our economy and increase wage levels and productivity. Projects dreamed up in London, for big cities, just won’t work here because our challenges and opportunities are our own.”
Criticising the Government for failing to keep its part of the deal, German said this meant that the programme wasn’t up and running yet, well over a year after it was meant to start injecting much needed money into Cornwall’s economy.
“As a result there will be a gap between the current and the new programmes which means that support and grants to businesses, communities and individuals will stop before the next programme is up and running, putting jobs and projects in Cornwall at risk.”