To level up Devon needs £500+M: what chance?

From today’s Western Morning News:

Devon’s economy should get more than £500 million in additional Government support if the county’s hardest hit areas are treated the same as Cornwall.

Analysis for Team Devon shows productivity in six local authority areas is at least as low as Cornwall and therefore should be eligible for the same level of investment from the Government’s planned UK Shared Prosperity Fund which will replace EU funding from April 2022.

In the Budget the Government promised that Shared Prosperity Fund contributions for Cornwall would “at a minimum match the size of EU Funds” but no guarantees have been given for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

Team Devon research shows that low productivity in East Devon, Mid Devon, Teignbridge, Torbay, Torridge and West Devon is at least as bad as Cornwall, and the population of the six Devon areas is 612,000, more than the population of Cornwall. Whilst relatively better than Cornwall, productivity in Plymouth, North Devon and South Hams is significantly below the UK average and all areas are struggling with skills shortages and low wages.

If Government simply guaranteed Devon’s local authority areas UKSPF contributions to at least match what they would have received from the EU, they would share around £83.5 million, £11.52 per head, for jobs, skills and business support spread over six years up until 2028. But Team Devon says that if the Government treated Devon the same as Cornwall, that investment would rise to £540 million, £80.19 per head, for the lowest productivity areas and up to £1.13 billion, £155.86 per head, for the whole of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

Team Devon is urging the Government avoid the mistakes of the old EU funding system and ensure UKSPF is targeted to help these productivity “cold spots”.

Cllr Rufus Gilbert, Devon’s Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said: “We have no quarrel with Cornwall, Cornwall’s challenges are very similar to those faced by Devon. We simply ask Government to treat the people and businesses of Devon fairly and to put right an injustice which has starved our economy of vital funding.

“For many years Devon, Plymouth and Torbay have missed out on hundreds of millions of pounds of vital economic support because the EU wrapped up the whole of Devon, poorer areas with better off ones such as Exeter which frankly gave a totally false image of Devon’s economy.

“Nor should anyone assume that Exeter, so long the driving force in the Devon economy, is fine as it is. It is vital that Exeter is supported to enhance the city economy, and helped to drive up productivity across the rest of the county.”

Cllr David Worden, Chair of the Devon Districts Forum, said: “Team Devon’s research nails the myth that the severe economic and social challenges facing the peninsula begin and end at the Tamar. If the Government’s Levelling Up policy is going to succeed it has to apply Shared Prosperity funding fairly whatever side of the Tamar you live and work. To do otherwise, risks creating an economic cliff-edge between our two counties.

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