Friday, 1 October 2010

Cornwall’s LEP

Cornwall looks set to get government approval for a Local Enterprise Partnership covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to replace the old Regional Development Agency which went all the way up to Swindon. I think the new organisation offers us a chance for a fresh start on local economic policy.

I have always believed that smaller organisations can be more effective than larger ones because they are more agile and responsive and a small group of talented people can break through, take control of the reins and really get things done. One of the problems with the old RDAs was that they were too big, covered too large a geographic area and often cut across accountable bodies like Councils when it came to their priorities. Many businesses also found them remote and out of touch.

An LEP covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly starts with some plus points. It is much smaller and therefore more agile than the RDA and there are fewer councils to contend with which makes it easier to take and implement decisions. But the big test is still to come. We need to make sure there is strong business leadership on any new LEP.

Economic regeneration is one of the most important issues in this area. Since the loss of the mining industry and iconic firms like Holmans in Camborne and J&F Pool in Hayle, we have struggled to regain our footing and incomes have fallen well below average. I want to see that reversed. We need to develop new industries and build the wealth that will create new jobs in the private sector.

CPR Regeneration has made a good start locally under the leadership of David Brewer and Nigel Tipple. The culmination of six years work should come to fruition over the next couple of years with the Heartlands project at Pool and the regeneration of Tuckingmill which will probably even include the reopening of South Crofty mine.

But we are entering an era where there will be less public money around for capital investment and so the lead will need to come increasingly from the private sector. We need more people with a bright idea to have a go, set up their own business and, hopefully, make money. Helping people get off the ground with their business idea must become the main focus. The sorts of people who in the last decade might have worked for government agencies like "Business Link" advising businesses what to do are the sorts of people who must now fly the nest and do it themselves. Our economy depends on it.

The problem in recent years is that there have been a plethora of government quangos tripping over one another to tell businesses what they should be doing. We need to turn the tables so that real life businesses tell the Local Enterprise Partnership what they need and then together they make it happen. Time will tell whether we get it right.