BIG NEWS: Cornwall to continue receiving highest level of EU funding; regional GDP still below 75% European average - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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BIG NEWS: Cornwall to continue receiving highest level of EU funding; regional GDP still below 75% European average

Sunday, 18 March 2012
Cornwall is to continue to get the highest level of European funding because its economy is not strong enough to be without such grants. According to figures released today by the Eurostat and the European Commission, Cornwall’s GDP at 73.2% remains below the threshold of 75% of the European Union average, meaning it is set to continue to receive the highest levels of EU regional funding beyond 2013.

Cornwall has already received £400 million between 2000 and 2006 through the Objective One programme, and £500 million between 2007 and 2013 through Convergence funding. Now that it is categorised as 'Less Developed' area (previously known as Convergence), Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly could receive approximately €500 million over the next funding period.

While there has been growth in the county's economy (it was 66% of the European Average in 1999), it still remains not high enough to reclassify it as a ‘Transition area’ such as neighbouring Devon which has a GDP of 88.1% of the European average.

The South West of England region as a whole has a GDP exceeding the European average (101%) and the best performing part is the Gloucestershire, Wiltshire & Bristol/Bath area which has a GDP of 117.4%. See table below for further details. [For comparison, at 189.2%, London’s GDP is almost twice the European average]

Chris Ridgers, Cornwall Council’s economy portfolio holder, said he was "not surprised" by the Commission’s findings. Speaking to the BBC, he said Cornwall Council had hoped that investments made in the county and the Isles of Scilly might have meant the local economy was resilient enough to move away from high-level funding but admitted the economic recession "had a significant impact". "There is no easy fix for the economic challenges we now face, but the investments we have made have laid the foundation for future growth,” he said.

Lord Robin Teverson, a Liberal Democrat Member of House of Lords, Cornwall Councillor, was upset at the news, writing on Twitter: “Cornwall to stay on EU intensive aid for another 7 years then. Bad news. Our GDP only 73% of EU average. We needed to get off life support.” But Graham Watson, the region’s only Liberal Democrat MEP, tweeted:

Last month, Carolyn Rule a Conservative cabinet member of Cornwall Council seized the opportunity to lobby for Cornwall’s interests at an event in Brussels attended by a number of key European leaders, including MEP Lambert Van Nistelrooij representing the committee responsible for preparing the European Parliament’s negotiating position on regional policy, László Andor, the current European Commissioner for Regional Policy and Walter Deffaa, his Director General at the European Commission. At this meeting she said Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was an example of the strength of European funding as a vehicle for positive change:

"Objective One has played a key role in overcoming economic hurdles associated with peripherality and poor external connections through spearheading the growth of our broadband infrastructure, developing Newquay Cornwall Airport, improving transport routes and developing a higher education campus" she said.

The final decision on the regulations and budget proposal must be unanimously agreed by all Member States and are currently the subject of an intense period of debate among the European Parliament and the European Council.


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