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.
The heart of business support - the simple way to navigate support services
A suite of funds and investments to enhance business growth.
Any Resemblance is a collaborative film project between Krowji, Le Groupe Ouest in Brittany, and Golden Tree Productions here in Cornwall, and promotes a new perspective on each region. 20 Cornish businesses, including Roddas, Teagle, Headforwards, TJ International, Classic Cottages and Pendennis, are paired with 20 from Brittany, and the films provide a compelling picture of enterprise thriving in our two regions at the edge of Europe. This collection of short films is now available online.
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 currently includes nine 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.
Welcome to my first blog of 2015, and what a year it is already shaping up to be.
In a matter of days we have seen Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LEP secure a £11.3 million expansion to our Growth Deal with Government, taking our total investment package to more than £60 million.
We expect that to help deliver around 5,000 jobs, 7,000 homes and up to £160m of additional public and private sector investment over the lifetime of the Deal, which runs from April this year until 2021.
And we have had the excellent news that A&P Falmouth has won a £50m, three-year contract from the Ministry of Defence to maintain a new tanker fleet for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary a huge vote of confidence in A&Ps skilled workforce.
Its easy to dismiss such announcements as pre-election giveaways, but the truth is that these investments have been hard won and will deliver real growth and real jobs in the coming years.
Many of the Growth Deal projects that we have successfully bid for will address a raft of transport, infrastructure and connectivity issues that have been holding back growth, which is a key priority for the LEP especially if we are to reap the full benefits of our next European funding programme.
And given our track record to date in investing public money wisely, I am very confident that we will achieve the outcomes on jobs, homes and businesses that we are projecting. Although still work in progress, our analysis of the results of the LEPs previous successful bids into the Regional Growth Fund and Growing Places Fund point to a very impressive return on investment in terms of jobs and additional public and private sector funds that we have been able to attract. We will publish that analysis soon.
Overall our economy is weathering reasonably well with some interesting economic headlines released at the end of last year. In terms of those receiving Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) compared to November 2013, totals are down by 2,377, from 6,930 to 4,553. This is a fall of 34% over the year.
We also saw the release of the latest Gross Value Added (GVA) data from Office of National Statistics. In 2013 total GVA equalled £8,373 million, up from £8,124 million in 2012. The 2012 figures were also up on the 2011 total. Per capita GVA in 2013 now stands at £15,403, up from £15,040 in 2012.
These GVA figures are very important to the LEP as they form our main measurement of the quality of growth in our economy. So we are moving in the right direction but there is still much to do as we remain well below the UK and EU averages.
Continuing to seek to improve the strength of our economy is of course why we must ensure our EU Programme commences this year, with more than £500 million available to invest in growing the economy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly between now and 2020.
Of course we should have been well on our way to contracting our first investments by now but the programme has been delayed. There are a number of issues causing this delay which are affecting all the LEP areas of England. As well as some technical hold ups, agreeing the final mechanisms for how the funds will be administered between Government and local areas is also causing delay between the UK and the EU Commission. Having been promised by Ministers greater decision-making powers in respect of the next European funding programme, it is clear from ongoing negotiations between local partners and the Government that this is proving more difficult to deliver in practice.
Negotiations are now at a critical stage and representatives from Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been in Brussels with both the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the EU Commission to try to push for a quick resolution that delivers as much local decision making as possible.
The LEP and our partners have been taking every opportunity to raise the issue of delay with Ministers, and we met with the Prime Minister yesterday during his visit to Redruth for the Growth Deal announcement at which he pledged to continue to do what he can to make sure the interests of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are properly represented when it comes to EU funding. We are being assured that the Government expects to agree in principle the England operational programme in February, with a view to a small number of project calls (or tenders) being issued in March this year. In practice that means the first investments being made by the end of 2015 at the earliest.
Calls will be issued by the Managing Authority (Department for Communities and Local Government) and then assessed before a contract is awarded.
The LEP has been working closely with businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and at national level with Government departments to help shape what those calls will look like, and to make sure they will meet our local needs.
We are not alone in the UK or Europe as many other European programmes have been delayed, but it is deeply frustrating.
Of great concern is the potential impact the delay will have on our economy because many of the existing EU-funded projects, including business support, will cease by Summer 2015. It is encouraging therefore that DCLG has confirmed that it is looking at the possibility of extending some existing EU-funded projects that are due to end before the new programme begins so that we can maintain momentum.
Rest assured the LEP, and both our councils and many in the business community plus our MPS, are batting hard for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to make sure that we retain as much local control as possible over our EU programme and that once finally approved, we can get projects up and running as quickly as possible.
Looking ahead to 2015, many of our Growth Deal projects will be getting underway, removing blockages to growth and opening up consented sites for development, creating jobs and homes.
We will also expect to see work start on the long-awaited dualling of the A30 on Bodmin Moor, which could be completed by summer 2016. Around 38% of our businesses use this stretch of road at least monthly. And of course we had the breakthrough announcement before Christmas about the Governments commitment to remove the major A30 bottleneck between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross by 2020, something for which we have long campaigned.
Staying with the Growth Deal, we have also been working with local businesses and others on a proposed business support Growth Hub, which is something the Government is keen to see implemented using some of our Growth Deal money and EU funds.
This work is being led by one of our private sector board members Simon Tregoning, who is chairman of Helston-based Classic Cottages. To find out more about the Growth Hub you can read Simons blog here.
Another project linked to the Growth Deal is Enterprise Advisers, through which the LEP is using part of our Growth Deal allocation to fund a network of advisers to help foster enterprise and entrepreneurship in our schools, ranging from primaries to higher education, including private and special needs schools. We are one of just five LEP areas in the country to pilot the project. Find out more here
I am also pleased to report that the LEP has secured almost £100,000 of Government funding to help local businesses improve their digital skills and grow their business online. Information workshops about the Digital High Street Skills project have been running through January. It offers subsidised training and a voucher worth up to £1,000 to spend on services like web design and local media support. For more information click here.
January has also seen a flurry of Ministerial visits, which provide an excellent opportunity to keep the challenges and opportunities in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly front of mind with central Government. As well as the meeting with the Prime Minister this week, myself and the leader of Cornwall Council attended a breakfast meeting with Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss at which she was briefed on the LEPs ambition to harness research and technology to support innovation in the agricultural sector.
LEP director Simon Tregoning and I also met with Department for Business Innovation and Skills Minister Matthew Hancock to outline progress of the LEPs Better Business for All project
This is working hard, with the support of the regulatory services at Cornwall Council, to break down barriers to growth through a collaborative approach to business regulation. This includes a new online guide to regulatory services and a series of video case studies on the LEPs Business Pulse website. I can recommend them if youve not seen them already. We will shortly publish a new guide to regulation aimed specifically at start-up businesses, listing the things they need to consider and how the regulators are there to help, not hinder.
Matthew Hancock was also updated on the Enterprise Zone at Newquay Cornwall Airport, and the EU funding issue. I have also had three meetings with Lord Ahmad, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, to keep EU issues to the fore.
As part of the LEPs commitment to furthering our links with the business community, we have secured funding to employ a business and stakeholder relationship manager. Their job will be to act as the LEPs day-to-day lead on general and specific issues that affect business, and the successful implementation of new business support programmes. The post has been advertised on our website in recent weeks and we hope to appoint soon, so watch this space.
Some of you may be aware that I have been appointed as the new Chairman of the Board of Governors at Falmouth University. Creativity and innovation have never been more relevant to the needs of our economy and I am delighted to be taking up the Falmouth post in the autumn and will then step down from the board of the University of Exeter. I will remain as chairman of the LEP for the foreseeable future.