A theme that crops up when discussing Brexit is what support Cornwall and Scilly can expect once EU Structural Funds are no longer available. The Government has committed to a ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’ as the successor and a consultation as to how this is distributed is to be launched soon. Currently Cornwall is one of a few places in the UK that receives finance via the EU because we ‘tick’ the boxes when measured against the EU criteria for funding such as (and I quote) ‘rural areas, areas affected by industrial transition, and regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps’. I want to ensure Cornwall and Scilly has early access to the Shared Prosperity Fund and on Friday I organised a meeting of local people who are engaged in creating and sharing wealth. This new group, which I describe as a ‘Jobs and Growth Round Table’, comprises of more than a dozen business, employment, council and education figures from across West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and together we will pool our knowledge of individual towns and neighbourhoods to put together a convincing case for Government investment through the Shared Prosperity Fund. This inaugural meeting had been planned for some time so I was especially pleased that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, The Rt Hon Liz Truss, was able to attend as part of a two-day tour of Cornwall. Liz Truss, responsible for Government spending, was very clear about the need to create an environment for businesses to grow and create wealth in areas such as West Cornwall and requested at the meeting that we put together for her attention a summary of the tools and help we need in West Cornwall and on Scilly to promote growth. For me, the priority is that the whole of West Cornwall prospers with rewarding educational and career opportunities so it was great that Liz Truss was able to give a Government perspective at the start of this new initiative to improve the life prospects of those living in our most deprived communities. I know that everyone sitting around the table from the Manager of Geevor Mine to the Director of Goonhilly Earth Station and Director of Konnect Cornwall (whose work includes supporting troubled young adults towards a more stable and rewarding future) share this ethos.
Another visitor over the weekend was Rail Minister Jo Johnson MP. He and I met with local businesses to explore what more could be done to put locally produced quality goods on the trains, a reliable and sustainable alternative to trucking everything up the A30 and beyond. Jo was clear that our ‘Freight on the Rails’ initiative is something worthy of further support and he and his officials agreed to apply pressure to the relevant bodies to ‘drive’ this initiative forward. There is no shortage of Cornish gin, fish, oysters, cheese, cream, beer, wine and more to export to London and beyond.
This week I say goodbye to my London member of staff Sasha. Sasha approached me in a drop-in surgery on the Lizard for a job prior to going to university. She has been an incredible asset to my team over the past year and will be missed.