MP Derek Thomas says that a new fund to replace current EU structural funding could help kick start a ‘massive upskilling’ in Cornwall in the jobs required to fight climate change.
The Government will shortly launch a consultation on a shared prosperity fund to improve the economic prospects of the UK’s least developed regions after it leaves the EU.
Speaking in a Westminster debate on the issue, Mr Thomas called for the shared prosperity fund to have specific mechanisms to help the regions that are furthest behind and that will help rebalance the UK economy.
“In Cornwall and on Scilly we are looking not for a handout, but for a hand up,” he said.
“The aim of European funding is to reduce inequalities between communities and reduce disparities in regional levels of development, with particular regard to those that have increased deprivation, rural and island areas, areas affected by industrial transition and regions that suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly fit perfectly with those aims.”
12 months ago, Mr Thomas set up a group that works with local business, Cornwall Council and people who already work with the most deprived communities which has the aim of identifying the skills that a shared prosperity fund should deliver to enable people to get the well-paid, skilled jobs they want.
And he believes that the need for urgent action to fight climate change offers huge opportunities for a shared prosperity fund to help people in West Cornwall acquire the skills that will be required.
“The Committee on Climate Change recommendations set out the need for massive upskilling to give people the skills needed for research and innovation, so that we can decarbonise our environment and our economy and ensure that people are healthier, live in healthier homes and have better opportunities,” he said.
“Now is the right time to have this debate and create a vibrant, low-carbon economy with better health, better skills and better pay.
“We want support to make local economies low carbon. We have great talent; now, we need great opportunity.”
Local Government Minister Jake Berry said that the consultation for a shared prosperity fund would take place shortly and was being undertaken to ensure that funding was simplified. The size of the fund will be set during the comprehensive spending review and the fund would immediately succeed current EU funding streams.