Editor’s blog: seize the opportunity

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So with the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) set to be consigned to the dustbin, we are now asking ourselves – what next?

Tough times for SWRDA. Last week the Government confirmed its intentions to scrap the RDAs in preference to setting up Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in its Budget announcements, and this week it formalised this by writing to Councils and business leaders. It will be wound down by March 2012, with the loss of 320 jobs.

So how exactly should this all pan out? There is a call and general acceptance that the business community should be at the very heart of the LEPs.

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For its part, the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce is consulting with members as well as Cornwall Council.

It is a time of opportunity for Cornwall. There has been much criticism in the past that SWRDA was just too geographically disparate.

There is an appetite for Cornwall to have much greater control over its economic destiny and go it alone, but in turn could this lead to a danger that our voice will too easily drowned out by larger regions?

Rather, should a future LEP bring Cornwall together with Devon, and perhaps even parts of Dorset, or would this be ignoring the Duchy’s unique needs? There is a debate to be had, let us know your thoughts.

The new Coalition clearly wants to be a listening Government, or to at least give the impression that it is listening, even if its ‘Your Freedom’ initiative is, let’s be honest, patronising and ridiculous.

But as far as the LEPs go, we need to have our say now, or it will be an opportunity lost.

5 COMMENTS

  1. If a business can’t make money without funding then its not a business. All this money I’ have ever seen has gone into the pockets of a few people who have the knowledge to tender for it. Some of which have even moved to Cornwall to take advantage of it!

    I wont miss it – and I doubt 90% of the Cornish residents will even notice it gone – just those highly paid business owners who rely on it to pay their mortgage.

  2. I don’t think the RDA itself will be much mourned, but the money it controls would be – what happens to Convergence funding, which the RDA currently manages?

  3. I agree with Rob above in that Cornwall has to grab this opportunity to go it alone and also that there is no apparent benefit of teaming with Devon.

    I was at a breakfast at the National Maritime Museum this morning where Tom Flanagan, Director for the Environment, Planning and the Economy at Cornwall Council, held a Q & A session with Falmouth’s business community. These were high achieving, sophisticated business people who know exactly what their community needs to be successful. There was a real sense of frustration at how they have been held back by the RDA over the years. Seemingly endless time and money have been wasted on consultants and bureaucratic black holes, rather than funding being delivered direct to the end users and beneficiaries in Cornwall.

    One of the main issues covered was how the port and business community have been for years trying to get support to dredge Falmouth’s harbour so that the economy can benefit from large ships coming in for repair work and cruise liners berthing. Although this is a difficult and sensitive project, the overwhelming feeling was that far more progress would be made if more decisions could be taken by the local Council. Indeed, Tom Flanagan was very upbeat about the future potential of Cornwall if, as looks likely, more power is devolved to local authorities and communities.

    If Cornwall were to ‘go it alone’ it would no longer have to go through an intermediary such as the RDA in Bristol and instead would have a more direct relationship with the national government and also be a step closer to the European authorities. Combined with the fact that so many local MPs are now in government, Cornwall could be about to start quite an interesting stage of its development. One of the main reasons why Cornwall has traditionally been one of the UK’s poorer regions is that, like other peripheral UK regions and colonies, it has not been able to make its own decisions and has been largely ignored by the controlling powers in London.

    Finally, I disagree with Nick’s point at the end about the Government’s ‘Your Freedom’ initiative. In the same way that crowd sourcing is now used to develop the best products and services for consumers in the private sector (think open source software), all genuinely democratic governments in the digital age will operate this way. Yes, of course the odd idiot might post something ridiculous, but 60 million people are bound to have and develop better ideas than a few people sitting in Whitehall and Parliament. It is patronising for the government to think that they can know what we, the people, want. Politicians live in a bubble, most without ever having experienced life in the private sector, let alone having built a business. They are our public servants, not some big state dictators who only listen to lobbyists from the trade unions and big business.

    After 13 years of the last government having developed a bloated, inefficient and stifling public sector beholden on the patronage of Labour, it is time for the UK and Cornwall to re-discover our traditional taste for freedom, responsibility and enterprise.

  4. I don’t see the utility in a Cornish/ Devon business partnership, both have a very different economic needs. Cornwall makes Devon look affluent in comparison, and here we still need to build an economy amongst the ashes of the mining industry and the decline in farming and fishing. Whereas in Devon the economy merely needs to be supported, enhanced and built upon. To attempt to administer both as one will inevitably end in eithers needs favoured over the other or some fudge of a solution that suits neither. Thus in terms of strategic planning, coherence and unity of purpose any LEP will benefit from matching similar economic areas. Cornwall needs its own LEP to meet our own requirements lest we trudge on as one of the poorest parts of the UK.

  5. I don’t see the utility in a Cornish/ Devon business partnership, both have a very different economy and different needs. Cornwall makes Devon look affluent in comparison,

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