ICS Report: Cornwall’s Post Covid-19 Socio-Economic Recovery

Zachary Collins

Key questions

  • Ensuring innovation is encouraged through a circular economy, providing technological investment in the creative sector that remains within local economies.
  • Developing and embracing new measures of success- i.e. average PAYE- in order to get a better eye to detail when analyzing inequalities.
  • Being aware of the effects of our stories on Cornwall’s present and future development.
  • Inclusive growth by making sure we are better connected to our communities- and the community is better connected to us to aid resilience efforts.
  • Facilitating better community engagement using our parish and town councils to share information and address local needs.

This interdisciplinary report draws on research and findings from the Institute of Cornish Studies (ICS) and other disciplines across the University of Exeter regarding the socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 on Cornwall and how we can meet these challenges.  Our research is presented in 4 key sections: Culture, Heritage and Society; Politics and Government; Environment and Health; and Economy and Business.  We argue that this recovery needs to be based on community engagement to build resilience by fostering adaptation.  

Under the heading of ‘Embracing Change’, our recommendations for Cornwall’s holistic recovery include: a focus on innovation within the circular economy, embracing new measures of success, an awareness of the effects of our stories, enabling inclusive growth and providing greater community engagement. 

Currently, our communities are very unequal.  Whether this relates to inequalities of knowledge, wealth, transportation, or opportunities.  To address this, we need to have a better understanding about how people access and receive information about changes to our economies and communities, and make sure that routes in to new and emerging industries are clear and straightforward for individuals seeking to up/reskill.  We also need to make sure that the benefits of investments circulate around Cornwall, asking questions such as ‘how can technological developments serve the needs of local economies’, and ‘how can local economies feed in to new developments’.  

We know that many of our businesses are being badly hit by Covid-19.  But current measures of success do not make visible all of the impacts on individual businesses in order for plans to be put in place to make things better.  We can change this by switching our measures of success from broad-brush tools like GDP, to something more targeted such as PAYE. 

We need to be much more reflective about the kinds of stories that we tell about Cornwall, what their effects are, and what kinds of futures and possibilities do they open up.  How well do our stories share the fact that we have a number of really exciting, innovative, and dynamic sectors in our economy beyond tourism?  Can we use the visitor economy to showcase to visitors and locals alike, that Cornwall is not only a nice place to visit.  We also have a world-class maritime industry; a strongly performing digital economy; our own international clothing brands; a lively creative sector; and local innovators doing things as revolutionary as turning recovered discarded fishing nets into kayaks and swimwear. 

How can we do this?  Some of our tools, we already have.  We need to be better at sharing information around our community.  As democratically elected, participatory bodies that people also know about, town and parish councils have an enormous potential as spaces to share information between the wider public, businesses, and Cornwall Council so that we can better address local needs.  They can be at the nexus of ensuring that we have a truly inclusive recovery.  As we move forward we need to explore how we can help town and parish councils to play this kind of role much more strongly. 

Covid-19 has created a lot of challenges for us.  But it also opens up opportunities for doing things differently, and doing them better.  Here at the Institute of Cornish Studies we are really happy to be able to feed in to this conversation, bringing together research from across the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campuses, to consider how we can build back better. 

»Read our full report here (pdf)