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Westcountry left trailing far behind UK economy

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 15, 2013

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The Westcountry's economic difficulties have been laid bare after official figures revealed how the region trails behind much of the UK.

Productivity in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was the fourth lowest of 134 regions across Great Britain, with wealth creation in the area 27% below the national average. Neighbouring areas were only in marginally better shape, but still well below the national average. Torbay is 21% off the pace, and Devon 14% below the national average. Plymouth is 8.2% away from the national benchmark.

Against claims London and the South East is propping up the British economy, there were calls in the region for the Government's flagship £2.6 billion regeneration fund to target the far South West.

Commentators also feel the region's poor transport links to the capital need improving as they are hampering efforts to create better-paid jobs after decades of industrial decline on the peninsula. George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, said: "The figures underline the importance of attracting new industries and creating better paid jobs in Cornwall.

"To do this we should be getting priority when it comes to accessing the Regional Growth Fund, because too much has been targeted to northern regions, and we should continue to get support of EU structural aid investment into the future."

Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Somerset Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "We will be playing catch-up for as long as there are connection problems to the far South West. We need more road, rail and air investment, and we have to make the case for that in Whitehall."

Wealth creation was measured using a complicated formula taking into account the amount of the nation's GDP created per region, the number of workers there and the number of hours they work.

The Office for National Statistics analysis examined gross value added (GVA) per hour worked – the amount of wealth generated by a worker every hour in 2011.

The method eliminates the effects of unemployment and worklessness and measures only the value produced by those who are actually in jobs.

The worst-performing areas were largely rural or tourist regions – underling a reliance on low-paid, seasonal work – and depressed cities.

Inner London had the highest productivity level, with a GVA per hour worked 54% above the UK average in parts of London.

Outside London, regions with the highest productivity levels were Berkshire and Edinburgh – both with a GVA per hour worked more than 20% above the UK average.

Regions showing the lowest productivity levels were often, but not always, rural areas of the UK.

Powys and Gwynedd, both in Wales, had the lowest productivity at more than 30% below the UK average.

Only 29 out of 134 regions in Great Britain had GVA per hour worked above the UK average – 16 of which are in the South East.

The figures underline the case being argued for more EU regeneration cash to help the Westcountry to get back on its feet – though some will question whether more than 15 years of aid has been wasted given the parlous state of the economy.

English regions will from next year share more than £5 billion of Brussels structural aid to boost the poorest areas of the 27-nation bloc.

Since last year, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been expecting to receive the highest level of hand-out available as the area remains in the category of the most impoverished corners of Europe.

In February, David Cameron confirmed Devon as one of 11 UK regions to get the second-highest level of support available – a status that was in doubt and risked leaving the area's economy being overtaken by neighbouring Cornwall's.

Since the mid-1990s, around £1 billion of structural aid have been pumped into Cornwall, which has paid for one of the fastest broadband connections in Europe, the development of Newquay Airport and the Combined Universities in Cornwall project.

For decades, business leaders have been pushing for the notorious A303 between London and the South West to be widened, and they have been buoyed by the Government's Budget commitment of an extra £3 billion a year to big building projects from 2015.

Critics also fear the London-to-Penzance Great Western line – which left the region marooned by rail three times last year because of floods – needs heavy investment and faster trains. The resilience of the rail network is now seen as even more important following the loss of Plymouth's air link.

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  • shagrats  |  April 16 2013, 10:24AM

    What ever happened to the "geothermal" revolution that was promised down here. I beleive grants of several million pounds were given out, but no sign of any drilling rigs in Cornwall. This would if it comes to fruition provide jobs, and clean green renewable energy that is not dependant on the wind or sun. I have become deeply suspicious as all of the deadlines have passed for both projects, that it may have been a ruse to extract alot of EU funding up front with little real intention of actually seeing this through. I really hope I am mistaken in my thinking, otherwise this could be another St Ives film foundation scenario.

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  • ElwoodRiots  |  April 16 2013, 9:54AM

    The way people in this county continue to vote Tory or Lib Dem makes me ashamed to be Cornish.

  • kernewekonan  |  April 15 2013, 9:39PM

    perhaps cornwall should ask the shower in govenment for a funeral fund . seems there is no end of money to be had for this tory waste.

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  • break  |  April 15 2013, 8:35PM

    Why give us more cash when those in power only spend it where they want it spent,the only industry we have is the development industry,give that more money and we'll end up with more houses being built.Its the people at the top that take all the money meant for the public,the more time they sit at a desk,the more they get paid.I thought cornish lads are fishermen and cornish lads are miners too,not sure what we're meant to do now,now those industries are dead.

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  • bullocks400  |  April 15 2013, 7:29PM

    Until there is a move toward encouraging 'real' industry and jobs there can't be much change in the fortunes of the South West. The pathetic and destructive over emphasis on the apparent importance of tourism is doomed to failure, as it always has been. Nothing wrong with tourism, but it has to be an add on to the proper jobs which generate wealth. Don't forget that the designation of the South West as an area primarily used for tourism came from the EU many years ago. Problem is, no one has bothered to question that situation since. Well, except for the majority of the residents of the South West, but then, what do we know?

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  • twofeetofsnow  |  April 15 2013, 5:20PM

    "Since the mid-1990s, around £1 billion of structural aid have been pumped into Cornwall, which has paid for one of the fastest broadband connections in Europe" I must live in a different Cornwall to this one, BT say they might be connecting fibre optic broadband to Penzance but don't say when. Where was this piece of hogwash researched? It certainly wasn't on high speed broadband in Penzance.

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  • howardd1  |  April 15 2013, 5:12PM

    we are to far from any where , if plymouth was a good channel port then things might be different, industry as never been engouraged here , blame the tourist industry who have kept it that way and i am fraid it will stay that way

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  • 2supercat  |  April 15 2013, 3:31PM

    This is the price we pay for allowing outsiders to turn Cornwall into a mini Florida instead of proper jobs. Hopefully the faster broadband will encourage proper industry with proper jobs.

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  • First Impressions  |  April 15 2013, 3:05PM

    £10 an hour should be the min wage wherever you live in the UK and higher if in London.....no-one can live on £6.71-an-hour; it's disgusting what employers get away with. Problem is, if you don't want it, there are 200 people lined up ready to replace you.

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  • spindles12  |  April 15 2013, 2:23PM

    It's all well and good comparing the price of the meals with the wages that the staff get but don't forget that without the customers buying those meals the staff wouldn't have jobs!