LEP presses Government on funding

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The Government is being pressed for assurances about future investment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the wake of uncertainty prompted by the Brexit vote.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Cornwall Council have today (Aug 22) jointly written to the Secretaries of State whose departments currently control EU funding.

The letters, signed by Cornwall Council Leader John Pollard and LEP Chair Mark Duddridge, highlight concerns about the future of a raft of proposed investments aimed at creating jobs and growth.

Cornwall and Scilly were earmarked for around £500 million of EU investment from 2014 to 2020 to close the economic gap with other parts of Europe by growing businesses, creating jobs and boosting skills.

The Brexit vote has put a question mark over that funding, despite assurances from the Leave campaign that it would be honoured in full to 2020.

The Treasury announced on 13 August that EU-funded projects signed by the time of the Autumn Statement later this year would have their funding guaranteed. There was a similar pledge on research funding and farm payments up until 2020, all of which was broadly welcomed.

But with no further guarantees this still leaves at risk around £300 million of EU funding earmarked for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

LEP Chairman, Mark Duddridge, said: “We’ve impressed on the Secretaries of State that we are a trusted and willing partner when it comes to delivering growth but we need the tools to finish the job.

“While we welcome the clarity provided by the Treasury notice in the short term, we’ve asked them to provide resource to expedite project approvals before the autumn deadline and look hard at what’s in the pipeline after that, and how it can be delivered.

“We have a strategic and prioritised investment programme to 2020 and beyond. That demands continuity and momentum, but there remains a gulf of uncertainty after November this year.”

Cornwall Council Leader John Pollard said: “Ever since the Brexit vote I have been pressing for clarity over future funding. These letters continue to press and to urge the Government to give both the public and the private sector the confidence to move forward.”

The letters have been sent to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Damian Green, Secretary of State of Work and Pensions; and Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Projects earmarked for EU funding but now facing uncertainty include business support and investment funds, transport and energy schemes, community-led projects, specialist skills development like space and renewable energy, and rural programmes.

The letters highlight the fact that the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly EU funding programme complements a range of other investment activity, including the Government’s own £60 million Growth Deal awarded in 2014 and 2015; the Cornwall Devolution Deal, signed last summer, and the LEP’s latest Growth Deal bid for £127 million of investment.

They also offer to work closely with Government on the future of regional funding, including sharing best practice and piloting new schemes.