Within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, we have already created partnerships and delivery mechanisms that can easily be adapted to fulfil the role required for our LEP.
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A suite of funds and investments to enhance business growth.
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was launched in May 2011. Private sector-led, it is a partnership between the private and public sectors and is driving the economic strategy for the area, determining local priorities and undertaking activities to drive growth and the creation of local jobs.
The LEP is business-driven and our board includes ten representatives of the private sector in Cornwall, three Cornwall Council representatives, one representative from the Isles of Scilly Council and one representative from the education sector. Click for more info.
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP is one of 39 LEPs across England set up following the Coalition Government's new approach to economic development. This new approach puts businesses in the driving seat and empowers the private sector to determine their own priorities.
Since the start of the year it seems there really has only been one story in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - the weather. A conveyor belt of Atlantic storms has hammered our coastal communities and highlighted the fragility of one of our key transport links with the severing of the main railway line at Dawlish.
Our priority at the LEP has been to work with our neighbouring LEP and local authorities in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, Devon and Somerset to press the Government for urgent remedial action to get Dawlish repaired as quickly as possible, and to help spread the message that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are very much open for business.
But longer term we need sustained investment to improve the resilience of our rail and road network across the region. That is the case we and our partners made to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin at a meeting in Plymouth earlier this month, and the Prime Minister was left in no doubt about the importance of robust transport links during his recent tour of the region, pledging to investigate how faster and more reliable rail and road links can be provided.
We are continuing to work closely with the Heart of the South West LEP and local authorities to make a co-ordinated case for investment, and that is the message we gave to the Commons Transport Select Committee when I and others from the region give evidence this week.
We made it very clear to the committee that we needed a robust solution at Dawlish that not only deals with the current problems but also delivers a longer term solution on that exposed stretch of line in Devon for at least the next 10 to 20 years. In tandem with that we asked Network Rail to look at a long term strategy that takes account of additional routes into the region, and for them to report back within the next nine months. We have been promised a first draft report by the summer. We also pressed for the £31 million of flood defence works proposed north of Exeter to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.
Overall our message to the Transport Committee was one of resilience, both in dealing with the pressing short term issues impacting on Cornwall and planning for the future in terms of rail, road and air.
We have been encouraged by recognition from the Government about the importance of air services from Newquay Cornwall Airport, for which Cornwall Council is applying for a secured London slot and four-year subsidy through a Public Service Obligation.
As has been widely reported, the Government agreed to reduce fares from Newquay by £5 for the next few weeks, coinciding with Flybe's very welcome doubling of flights to up to six a day in response to the rail issues. In addition, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has acknowledged the importance of securing a connection to a London hub airport, rather than a PSO to a less well connected airport in the South East. The LEP will continue to work with Cornwall Council on the case for a PSO, which is vital to securing the long term future of our air link to London.
Since my last update we have formally submitted our draft EU Structural and Investment Fund Strategy to the Government, the deadline for which was 31 January. This sets out in broad terms how we intend to invest some 592.9 million Euros of EU funding from 2014 to 2020 in boosting the economy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. There is still much negotiation to do but we are confident that by concentrating on our three main themes of Future Economy, Growth for Business and Conditions for Growth, we can tackle the very real challenges in our economy and take full advantages of the opportunities ahead.
In tandem with the European funding programme, we have also been drafting a Strategic Economic Plan outlining our wider ambitions for economic growth to 2020 and beyond and through which we can bid for a share of a £2 billion Local Growth Fund Government funding pot in the years 2015-16 and 2016-17. This brings together resources to support housing, transport and skills and all LEPs are being invited to bid for funds. Our focus is on transport and infrastructure and we are inviting feedback now on our draft plan before we make a final submission to Government at the end of March. We are also asking for increased devolved responsibility for making decisions right here in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, alongside our two local authorities. You can find out more and give us your views by clicking here.
The last few weeks have also seen considerable changes to our own board of directors. We have welcomed Richard McCarthy as the representative of the Council of the Isles of Scilly following the sad death of Dudley Mumford last year. Richard spent 25 years at home and abroad working for the BBC World Service, culminating in his position as Head of Press, Publicity and Marketing. For the last nine years he has served as Independent Councillor for St Agnes and chairs the Councils Community Services Committee. Richard attended his first board meeting in January where he was joined by the Council's new Chief Executive Theo Leijser, who took up his post at the start of the year.
Theo and Andrew Kerr, new Chief Executive at Cornwall Council who also started work in January, can attend LEP board members as observers and we welcome them in their new roles.
I would also like to extend a warm welcome to three new LEP board members following a recruitment process begun late last year after the departure of Gaynor Coley and Richard Reed.
Having advertised two private sector posts we received more than 20 applications and were so taken with the quality of applicants that we decided to appoint three people, all of whom will enrich the diversity and capacity of the LEP as we take on more roles and responsibilities. They are:
Lucy Edge, Director of Satellite Operations at Avanti Communications and General Manager of Avanti's site in Goonhilly, which is undergoing major growth with support from the Government's Regional Growth Fund. Lucy comes from a science and engineering background and has most recently been delivering major projects for Avanti, including its HYLAS 2 communications satellite mission, launched in 2012.
Paul Massey, Managing Director of Absolute Software Limited in Redruth, which he founded 13 years ago aged just 22. The high growth business now employs 20 staff. Cornwall-born Paul plays an intrinsic role in the continued development of the digital industry in Cornwall and is a founding member of Software Cornwall. He is also a member of the Employment and Skills Board and a trustee of Racehorse Relief.
Daphne Skinnard, Assistant Editor at BBC Radio Cornwall in Truro. Daphne is the link between the community and the radio station, managing outside broadcasts, events and partnerships with local organisations, and also runs BBC Radio Cornwall's charitable appeals. She is a governor of Truro and Penwith College, a board member of Kneehigh Theatre, a trustee of the Cornwall Community Foundation and the County Patron for Cancer UK. She was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant in July 2012.
We will formally welcome Lucy, Paul and Daphne to the board at our March meeting and I am delighted that we have attracted such a diverse range of expertise which spans science, digital and communications. All three are wholly committed to serving the interests of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as we face the challenges and opportunities ahead.
One final comment. The EU funds available for building the economy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly should be available from about now. However, approval of the UK Government's overall submission to the European Commission, of which we are a part, still has to be negotiated. This means it will still be some time before the programme is up and running. That doesn't mean we aren't already thinking hard about how we turn our EU SIF into deliverable projects and programmes for the benefit of our communities and businesses. We need a pipeline of great projects so we can hit the ground running as soon as possible. We won't want to get into detailed applications until the programme has formally started and we know more about the processes involved, but it is certainly time to start to think about if you have any growth opportunities to create GVA and jobs.