In Cornwall we have unique economic challenges. Our industries have to transport their goods further to market, which adds costs and reduces profitability. This means that average wages can be lower, making the recruitment of staff even tougher for businesses. Transport infrastructure has been deprived of investment, with government departments like the Treasury often failing to understand the dynamics of local economies. For all of these reasons, the case for economic investment in Cornwall has to be made repeatedly and consistently.
Since I was first elected twelve years ago, I have made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority so it is very positive to see that the Government, through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, is developing a vision for how we can improve all areas of the country, and not just focusing on the large cities such as Manchester or London.
What is the UK Shared Prosperity Fund?
Back in 2019, the Government promised to deliver the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and this was launched in April 2022. It is a central pillar of the Government’s ambitious Levelling Up agenda. This is because it will provide £2.6 billion of new funding for local investment by March 2025.
This has only been made possible due to the new opportunities that have arisen for local governance since leaving the EU. Rather than the restrictive EU structural funds, the UK Government is now able to ensure that we see new industries and better-paid jobs in places like Cornwall, rather than just seeing prosperity collect around the Home Counties.
Importantly, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will match the previous complex, rigid, and bureaucratic EU Structural Funds, pound-for-pound. This will begin with a £132 million share for Cornwall of the full £2.6bn packages for 2022/23 and increase by 2024/25 once the final EU funds have been wound down, at which point the UKSPF will match the average of previous EU funding each year.
The UKSPF will prioritise supporting pay, employment, and productivity growth, therefore increasing life chances in areas such as Cornwall. It will reduce the levels of bureaucracy and funding spent on administration when compared with EU funds by enabling decisions to be made at a local level. This will empower local leaders and communities who will be able to target the areas that need prioritising. As a result, it will lead to visible and tangible improvements to local communities, giving people in Cornwall even more reasons to be proud of their local area.
The Government’s primary goal of the UKSPF is that “By 2030, pride in place, such as people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.” This in particular will be achieved by increased investment into infrastructure, as well as other public services, in the areas that need the funding the most.
What will Levelling Up look like in Camborne and Redruth?
The UKSPF has enabled additional funding to towns within the constituency, such as Camborne, which has been given over £23 million for investment in projects to help transform the town. In particular, this will provide funding to rejuvenate and redevelop existing redundant sites into a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose entertainment and living space.
Cornwall has also been invited to start formal negotiations to agree new County Deals, with the aim of having this signed by the autumn. This will empower strong local leaders, taking a more flexible approach to devolution, by transferring decision-making power from Westminster to local communities. They will give areas such as Cornwall the ability to pilot new ideas, create new jobs, drive local growth, and improve local public services.
Key to Levelling Up in Cornwall will be the improvement of local transport infrastructure, especially bus services. At present, 77% of jobseekers outside of London do not have access to a car for their personal use, to attend work, or go to job interviews. Therefore, in order to Level Up, the Government will not only increase the frequency of bus services, but also reduce fares in rural villages that are not currently well served by linear bus routes.
It is exciting that Cornwall will be at the forefront of this project, with a new pilot Superbus network launched in conjunction between the Cornwall Council and the UK Government. This will also see the creation of a new Transport for Cornwall brand, which will bring together all bus operators in the county, as well as the main train operator, GWR. This will help to reduce fares by around 30% during the first phase, making it easier and cheaper to travel around the county.
Increased investment in infrastructure from the UKSPF will also enable the launch of Project Gigabit within Cornwall. This is where government funding will enhance digital connectivity to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage. This will help to improve business productivity and improve communications across the whole county.
Further supporting Cornish businesses will be the extra £200 million provided by the government across the South West for business investment. As part of this, £7.35 million will be given to support the launch of Spaceport Cornwall, further generating innovation and jobs within the county.