A view from... Julian German, Portfolio holder for economy and culture.

Following the recent negative publicity on the performance of the Convergence Programme in the media I thought it would be helpful to provide you with an update.

The Convergence Programme is actually made up of a number of funding streams which, together, has led to £554m being invested in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly over the last nine years (2007 – 2015).

The Programme consists of two main parts:

  • European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which has focused on investment in business support and infrastructure projects
  • European Social Fund (ESF) which has focused on improving the training and skills of people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

To date the ERDF programme has created 7,030 jobs in Cornwall and assisted 7,190 local businesses to improve their performance.  The ESF programme has doubled its target of participants receiving back to work support and improving their skills. However the Programme is still delivering outputs and, as these will be recorded right up to the end of this year, we expect these figures to rise even higher.

The Convergence evaluation referred to in the recent media coverage only covers part of the ERDF programme, and did not refer, for example, to Superfast Broadband. This part of the programme has funded a total of 169 projects including:

  • Improvements to Truro-Falmouth Branch Line
  • The creation of over 29,659m2 of workspaceThe Tremough University Campus in Penryn

The Programme has also provided investment in smaller projects , including

  • A 12 tonne sub lift hoist to increase capacity at Mashfords boatyard
  • A CNC machine to allow Bromleighs Ltd to manufacture their own components, improving competitiveness
  • Business support for growth through Oxford Innovation for companies like deliPOPS, who were able to increase production from 1000 units to 7000.

ERDF provides an opportunity to move in new directions.  It also supports activity where there is market failure, which can mean that some investments do not achieve as much as was hoped, but also creates a step change where there is success.  Lessons are drawn from all investments. 

I am pleased that it was Cornwall Council staff, on behalf the Convergence Partnership, who led the evaluation work which has identified how we can do things better in the future. Indeed, this has fed into the Case for Cornwall and the design of the 2014-2020 Programme (Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme).

We must always strive to do better but there are some considerations to bear in mind when considering the evaluation;

  • The targets for the Programme were developed prior to the 2008 financial crisis and were affected by the economic downturn. The 2010 Programme Review identified the difficulty of meeting Programme targets, but partners kept their ambitious targets, some of which have been met.
  • The evaluation undertaken by Amion excluded some key projects because they had commissioned their own evaluations – this included the Superfast programme which has been one of the major successes of the Programme.
  • The evaluation is a moment in time.  As you can tell by the numbers I have already mentioned, many investments are still reporting positive outputs
  • There were a higher number of infrastructure projects supported than were proposed in the original strategy.  This was because partners recognised the lack of immediate outputs, but supported investment for the potential impact offered by the activities that would be enabled by the new infrastructure.

The Programme chose to primarily focus on high value job creation as the means of addressing the productivity gap between Cornwall & Isles of Scilly and the national economy.  In the longer term Convergence jobs are expected to have a greater impact per head on the economy.

I recognise that the subject of European funding is one of those issues which generates strong feelings but am disappointed that some of the comments which have been made by individuals and in the media have not been accurate.  I hope this briefing will help to put the record straight.

The ERDF Convergence Communications team is based at County Hall, Truro and would welcome any questions or feedback you may have around ERDF Convergence. 

Looking forward, the team has also started to promote the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme.

Jason Sugden, Media Relations Officer                  jsugden@cornwall.gov.uk                  07854 039960

Louise Danks, Digital Content Officer           ldanks@cornwall.gov.uk           01872 224515

Sarah Corbett, Convergence Support Officer          scorbett@cornwall.gov.uk                   01872 241379 

Friday 31 July 2015