Monday, 2 March 2015

EU funding ... Charlies?

My article in this week's Cornish Guardian addresses the refusal of central government to allow local control over EU funds. It will be as follows:

Central government last week announced that the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority would have full control over their share of the Structural and Investment Funds from the European Union.

But in an unbelievable u-turn, they also announced that the European programmes for Cornwall – as well as other areas across England – would be centrally controlled from London!

The Coalition has always had a lot to say about localism and devolution, but it is all clearly a sham. They only seem capable of creating yet more unelected and unaccountable bodies – such as the Local Enterprise Partnership – while centralising decision-making to Westminster and Whitehall.

The unitary authority has rightly condemned the announcement. Pointing out that “Cornwall needs brave, bespoke investment decisions to grow our economy and increase wage levels and productivity,” a spokesman added that “projects dreamt up in London, for big cities, just won’t work here because our challenges and opportunities are our own.”

This debacle has reminded me of an article written by Len Truran, the National Secretary of Mebyon Kernow in the late 1970s.

Using a military analogy, he wrote: “During the last war, the most difficult job in an aircraft was that of rear gunner. He sat in his small turret experiencing the greatest discomfort of the whole aircrew, often being the lowest paid man aboard: his chances of survival were slim. He had one great advantage – thoughtful captains usually considered his well-being a priority. They called him ‘Tail End Charlie’.”

Len went on to describe Cornwall as the “Tail End Charlie” of Britain – “we are the ‘Tail Enders’ because we are the furthest from the centres of power in London and Brussels; and ‘Charlies’ because we are fools to give our support to such a system …”

He condemned the political establishment of the time, arguing that Cornwall had “no captain to put our welfare first” and “no political party crew that will spare us kind thought or give us honourable mention.”

And Len finished his article by demanding the devolution of significant powers to Cornwall, which would “take us out of the tail end” and into the mainstream.

This message is as relevant now as it was 35 years ago.

The devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales already have democratic control over how their EU money is spent. Why should the people of Cornwall be denied the same?

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