The past year has been the most difficult in living memory for many of us and as we pass into 2021, I wanted to offer an optimistic message about the future. Although the previous twelve months have been a great challenge, we have all found strength in the way individuals, groups and communities have reacted and adapted to the circumstances. I never doubted that when the Cornish people were confronted with this challenge we would deliver. One year ago, none of us could have expected to have gone through a once in a lifetime global event such as the pandemic, but we have light at the end of the tunnel with the rollout of a vaccine.
When coronavirus is behind us, we will look back, but I want all constituents to remember how well North Cornwall worked together during 2020 and keep that renewed spirit of support and cooperation. I must take this opportunity to thank all the people who helped others during the year. Our front-line NHS staff, who worked so hard around the clock to support the constituency deserve a great deal of credit, but so do our carers both professional and voluntary, who endured a very difficult year and our fantastic key workers in other sectors who kept going when others couldn’t.
Looking ahead to next year, I decided to use my final Prime Minister’s Questions of the year to ask the PM about the replacement for EU administered regional development funding after Brexit. Some in the media discuss levelling up only through the prism of the north-south divide. However, Cornwall has pockets of deprivation, and many communities in our constituency also need investment and support. I welcomed the Government’s announcement of the £4 billion levelling-up fund and the decision to review the Green Book so that projects outside London and the south-east are more likely to benefit from Government investment.
However, in the light of the new spending commitments, I felt it was only right to ask the PM to confirm that the shared prosperity fund – which will replace EU administered funding - is separate to the levelling-up fund, and that there will be an announcement on that soon. I have also been consistent that the new fund must be simpler and less time consuming for small businesses to access than the onerous EU schemes it is replacing.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that people in Cornwall are right about the importance of the new UK shared prosperity fund and confirmed it will be different from the levelling-up programme. The PM also said that he looked forward to working closely with me and with people in Cornwall to ensure that we use the additional funding best for the needs of people and communities in our constituency.