By Bev Haigh-Jones
I am sure that many will remember the promises made in the Conservative Manifesto during the 2019 election. There are too many to list here, but perhaps some of the most notable, and some which have a particular relevance for Cornwall, are the following:
- We will proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on development and do more to help countries receiving aid become self-sufficient.
- We will champion freedom of expression and tolerance, both in the UK and overseas.
- We will crack down on the waste and carelessness that destroys our natural environment and kills marine life.
- Guaranteeing the full economic benefits of Brexit: Northern Ireland will enjoy the full economic benefits of Brexit including new free trade agreements with the rest of the world. We will ensure that Northern Ireland’s businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of the UK and that in the implementation of our Brexit deal, we maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market.
- Once we have got Brexit done, we will free our farmers from the bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy and move to a system based on ‘public money for public goods’.
- Upon leaving the EU, we will leave the Common Fisheries Policy, becoming an independent coastal state and taking back control of our waters.
- UK Shared Prosperity Fund: The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be used to bind together the whole of the United Kingdom, tackling inequality and deprivation in each of our four nations. It will replace the overly bureaucratic EU Structural Funds – and not only be better targeted at the UK’s specific needs, but at a minimum match the size of those funds in each nation.
Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, all these promises have been broken, in one way or another.
Most recently, it was the turn of the guarantee of matched EU funding via the Shared prosperity Fund. Whereas we were promised an allocation that would match previous EU funding as a minimum, what Cornwall will actually be receiving represents less than half of that figure! Cornwall is not alone, of course, many of the most deprived areas of the UK, who benefitted greatly from EU funds, now find themselves significantly poorer rather than being “levelled up”.
Perhaps what is most annoying, though, is the response from the six Cornish MPs. These people were elected by the people of Cornwall to represent the county and fight for the best interests of its constituents. Perhaps they failed to read the job description, because they all appear to welcome the reduced funding allocation as good news. I say all, but one, Sheryll Murray, doesn’t seem to have made comment at all, as far as I can see.
As for the others, this is what they had to say.
Steve Double: “Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to receive more than £130 million funding boost through Shared Prosperity Fund:
It is great news that the Government has today confirmed what it has said all along, that Cornwall will not lose out with its replacement for EU funding now Brexit has taken place.”
Cherilyn Mackrory: “Cornwall and Isles of Scilly to receive £132million from Shared Prosperity Fund:
The Government has always been clear that its replacement funding for the previous EU structural funds would not leave areas any worse off, and this announcement proves this.”
George Eustice: “This week the Government has announced further details of the new Shared Prosperity Fund which replaces EU structural funds. It delivers on the pledge to ensure Cornwall receives the same amount of support as previously but with more flexibility on how funds can be used.”
Scott Mann: “The government have confirmed that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will receive more than £132 million from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. This scheme will:
- Fully match EU funds
- Have a simpler, less bureaucratic approach
- Be more democratically accountable
- Take into account community priorities
- Provide funding for adult literacy and skills programmes
- Come on top of other funding for Cornwall, including Towns Deals, Levelling Up funds, and more.
- This investment is a huge win for North Cornwall and means that we have delivered on our manifesto commitments and funding promises made during the Brexit referendum.”
Derek Thomas: “The announcement that the Shared Prosperity Fund has allocated £132 million for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is great news.
The funding delivers on the government’s commitment to match the previous EU funding from the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund when that comes to an end next year.”
What they all fail to mention, of course, is that the amount allocated is spread over three years. Previous EU allocation for Cornwall was in the region of £100 million per year, therefore £300 million over three years! It may be a long time since I was at school, but I am struggling to comprehend how this government’s £132m equals the EU’s £300m.
But there again, given the example set by our MPs’ Party Leader, I suppose that they have no need of true facts – just tell the public what they want to hear! I my view, it is totally shameful! They were elected to serve the constituents of Cornwall, not to tug their forelocks to Boris Johnson. It is their constituents’ interests which should be uppermost in their concerns, not following Party lines regardless of whether the statements are true, or how the results might impact on the County. It is time, I think, that they remembered who elected them to their current positions.