Thursday, 22 December 2011

Government inaction, flawed localism and Wave Hub

Image from www.investincornwall.co.uk

Today it was announced that the Future of Wave Hub is Secured. Which is a story about the transfer of the management of Wave Hub (http://www.wavehub.co.uk/) to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the ex RDA project now has a new owner. To be cynical, nothing has actually changed there are still no users of this exciting and innovative contraption, over a year after it was installed. Hopefully this will change and London can sort this one out because it is such a shame for the unique device and all the 42 million (plus infrastructure) spent on it. Best of luck to them. However, it must be noted some of the side stories evident in the story of Wave Hub, reflect on the policy and governance of the coalition government. Localism has been cast aside by the centralisation of Wave Hub and the governments ability to run services due to a focus on reform and rationalisation or in layman' terms cuts.

Localism of donkey work and the centralisation of control
Although there will be an office in Hayle administering the Wave Hub project the decision making has been centralised to London. This is deeply regrettable the project could easily be both administered and managed from Hayle by or in partnership with Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LEP. It seems obvious to me that a small but dedicated team in Cornwall could do a better job than bureaucrats in London with many different tasks and priorities to juggle.Besides which what is the point of the LEP if it does not take the lead with economic development schemes like Wave Hub? It is hard to argue how an office in Whitehall would have a greater working relationship with the LEP and Cornwall Council than a Cornish based operation. This situation is not surprising localism both from London and Truro has never been about decision making, these capitals jealously hold on to these powers but don't mind palming off the day to day running. This is bad for all of Cornwall it keeps central offices making the decisions, with the well paid workers in the capitals whilst the provinces are left with the donkey work and making the center's solutions work.

Cornwall's lost economic year
The transference of Wave Hub in January ties in with the lack of action over our LEP. Both have stood idle for a year, this government and Cornwall Council so intent on cutting the deficit and rearranging everything but is neglecting to run the day to day business of government. Our LEP has been lifeless for nearly a year and even now are only half way through a public consultation process. The same is true of the government, they ought to have been pushing the Wave Hub getting back some of that money invested, the same is true of other ex RDA schemes. 18 months of coalition government and yet Helston Business Park lies still empty. Who knows how many more projects the government has left to the side? If the government wants growth then it needs to look to work publically owned assets better. Now is the time to act for the sake of the Cornish economy, doing it dreckly is not an option.


Renewable energy and the folly of inaction
Schematic of the Wave Hub, from www.wavehub.co.uk
There is much talk about the vaunted green pennisula idea for Cornwall, that we can lead the way in renewable energy, at the forefront of development and testing of new technologies. It is of no doubt an admirable idea, we have large amounts of latent untapped energy in and around Cornwall whether it be wind, tidal, geo-thermal or solar. This could make Cornwall lots of money, my fear for the development of this idea is this inaction of Wave Hub and economic development generally is leaving us behind. There's no point aspiring to being innovative and cutting edge if we are following others. There's no point developing new technology in Cornwall if no one will want to buy it. We need to either ditch this idea of a green peninsula (a mistake in my opinion) or push ahead with it and use the investment and expertise of the LEP and Cornwall Council to make this idea a reality. There have indeed been great advances in this regard the UK's first solar farm at Wheal Jane and the work toward Geo-Thermal near Redruth and the Eden Project but more is needed. What we are facing is a situation whereby many parts of the world are focussing upon developing the renewable sector. We can not afford to fall behind, we need to get Wave Hub working, we need to see some benefit from that £42 million pound investment of taxpayer's money. Most importantly we need to prove to the world that we can pioneer such technologies and succeed, leaving Wave Hub rusting on the sea bed is damaging to hopes of a pioneering green Cornish peninsula. To be a success innovating in this sector we need to make Wave Hub succeed. We need to show the world that investing in Cornwall will be a success, that projects here are successfully completed.