Friday, 6 August 2010

Reasons to be cheerful

As Parliament enters recess for the month of August, we end term on a much brighter note.

Last year Britain spent some 150 billion pounds more than it raised in taxes which is completely unsustainable. So there has been much talk of cuts in recent months, whether the suspension of capital building in schools or delays in match funding for major redevelopment projects until after the Comprehensive Spending Review is completed in the autumn.

But last week we managed to get money flowing on a whole range of projects which are important to Cornwall and which are dependent on tight time scales in order to draw down public grants managed by the EU.

All projects funded under the European Regional Development Fund which don't require government match funding have now been given the green light. That means that all but two of the 49 projects that looked in doubt two weeks ago are now ready to go without further delay.

This week the government also agreed to inject £5 million into the regeneration of Hayle harbour, which is at a crucial stage. The investment will help repair the harbour walls along the north quay and put in place the infrastructure to support the new Wave Hub project which is the first of its kind in the world and really puts this part of Cornwall in a world beating position to develop this new technology.

But as well as putting in place the infrastructure, we also needed to support the small firms that are developing the technology. So further technology grants to drive development have been made available to ensure that wave power developers choose to come to Hayle.

Three projects at the new Combined Universities for Cornwall at Tremough have also been given the green light this week which means we can continue to develop our academic lead in Cornwall in sustainable energy and the digital and creative industries.

So there is a lot more to be optimistic about than there was a month ago, but much more to do. As a former student, I was incredibly disappointed not to have been able to get Cornwall College access to funding to refurbish the campus at Pool. They do some great work there and have built strong links with business. We need to look for other options to try to take some of their plans forward.

There are other important projects still on hold until after the Spending Review in October including the East-West road link at Pool and some other businesses are still waiting to hear whether their grants will go ahead. Finally, I want to make sure that those schools who are not now going to get funding under the old, rather bureaucratic "building schools for the future" programme, are at least prioritised when it comes to allocating the capital spending that is made available for schools after the spending review. So my in tray will be full when parliament comes back in September.

But August will also an important month because we are in the process of putting together plans to replace the Regional Development Agency with a new Local Enterprise Partnership covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Making sure that the business community decide the shape and form of that LEP is a key priority,because if we don't get it right, we will not succeed in accessing the newly created Regional Growth Fund.

But my main focus in August will be getting around the constituency and meeting as many people as possible. Have a good summer.