Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Localism, Devonwall and how to bring Cornish jobs back

This blog is not about the proposed Devonwall constituency that the government is imposing upon Cornwall and our dear neighbours. It is about the very real and insidious Devonwall that has beset Cornwall for decades. In this blog I am no arguing for notions of national identity, culture or history but about real bona fide jobs and how Cornwall is missing out on them. How we can and must harness localism to bring jobs back this side of the Tamar.

Devonwall has been around a long while, successive governments have sought to amalgamate services and departments of governance between Cornwall and Devonshire. Whether because they wanted offices closer to London, or they wanted to shore up electoral support in the key constituencies of Exeter and Plymouth, or they simply didn't care for Cornwall's economy, the result is the same, jobs moved eastward. With those jobs went more of Cornwall's decision making powers, I am not even talking about devolution here just the sort of decision making that English counties mostly enjoy.

The result of this centralisation is that the Cornish taxpayer involuntarily has 'outsourced' administration and management to Devon and the 'wider south west'. Devon and Cornwall Police is based in Exeter, the Startegic Health Authority is based in Taunton, Westcountry Ambulance Service based in Plymouth, and so the list goes on. It would take someone with a degree in finance and a masters in internet research to work out how many jobs are at these sites and what proportion of funding from Cornwall supports these offices and staff. But I think it's fair to say it is a lot of  money and a lot of jobs and all of these amalgamated offices aren't in Cornwall.
David Cameron told This Is Cornwall, (Nov 27th 2010):

"I think Cornish national identity is very powerful – people feel a great affinity with Cornwall. We're going to devolve a lot of power to Cornwall – that will go to the Cornish unitary authority."

The real question and challenge for Cornish politicians is how to buck this trend, how to keep Cameron to his word and how to harness the governments localism bill into bringing jobs back to Cornwall. So by a process of decentralisation the Cornish taxpayer no longer pays others to do jobs we could easily do here. We must encourage the government's proposals to bring power back to the town hall, if we can uncouple these services mentioned and others it would be a great boost for Cornwall's economy.

Our economy is still in a bad state we under perform in comparison to anywhere in the UK and most comparable regions of the EU and the fact that Westminster has been hitherto reluctant to keep public sector jobs in Cornwall has not helped. We still face a situation whereby Cornish youngsters leave Kernow in search of meaningful employment and those that stay earn well below UK average wages, localism offers an opportunity to alleviate some of these problems.

On the subject of localism, I very much hope that any jobs that are brought back to Cornwall are not all lumped together in Truro. Here in Penzance they would be very welcomed as I am sure they would be in Helston, Hayle, Bodmin, Wadebridge, Liskeard and a whole host of other towns. In terms of implementing this plan there are many buildings that used to house the old district councils (in Penzance for example) surely these could be adapted and/ or Cornwall Council could share offices with devolved bodies.