Friday, 28 September 2012

Recognising Cornwall as a distinct unit

In this week’s Cornish Guardian, I wrote about the decision of central government to stop the preparation of official Government statistics on a “south west” basis. The article was as follows:

There have been numerous campaigns to win a better deal for Cornwall. It is sad that many of these campaigns have been unsuccessful, but we must always remember that extremely significant advances have also been achieved in recent years.

One of the most important of these successful campaigns culminated in 1999, when Cornwall was “disaggregated” from Devon for statistical purposes within the European Union.

This may sound very technical but, prior to the late 1990s, the artificial linking of Cornwall to Devon meant that the extent of the Duchy’s low economic performance was masked by the county to our east.

In 1993, Cornwall’s gross domestic product (GDP) was around 76% of the EU average, which could have triggered many hundreds of millions of pounds of structural funding. But because Cornwall was linked to Devon, the joint figure for GDP came out at 83%.

Cornwall therefore missed out, but the Highlands and Islands of Scotland – with a GDP of 79% of the EU average – won the higher levels of investment.

MK and a range of Cornish groups have always campaigned for Cornwall to be treated as an entity in its own right as a point of principle, while the unfairness of what happened in 1993 galvanised a wider selection of people to back the redrawing of the European regional map.

As a consequence, from 1999 onwards, Cornwall’s local communities, institutions and businesses have benefited from a range of funding programmes including Objective One and Convergence.

But Cornwall has also suffered because central government has usually prepared statistics on a “south west” basis, leaving Cornwall invisible to senior politicians and policy makers in London.

I am therefore delighted at the announcement from the Coalition Government that official Government statistics will no longer be prepared on a “regional” basis and, in future, there will be bespoke data for Cornwall on all issues of economic and social significance.

Cornish MPs are right to point out that the death of the “south west government zone” will be welcomed by most people and that, even more importantly, the move will “allow a clearer picture to be built up about Cornwall’s problems.”

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