The State of Britain

A substantial drop in regional unemployment, bus services upgraded and battery operated trams in Brum

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Unemployment in the WM decreased by 23,000 to 117,000 between June and August, the fall of 0.8% was the second best in the UK and left the overall rate at 4.0%.

The South West continued to record the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.9%. The highest rate was 5.8% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 74.8% in the WM. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

WM average property prices increased by 1.5% to £201,510, which took annual growth to 2.4%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

The ONS’s Personal Well-being (or Happiness) Index has ranked the WM fourth out of the 12 UK ‘regions’ in terms of an improvement in life satisfaction since the last survey. The Northern Irish were the happiest folk in the UK with Londoners the most miserable.


The region will benefit from an extra £90m that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has added to the Cultural Development Fund, which is for arts, culture, heritage and the creative industries in towns and cities outside London. Worcester was a winner last year, now £7m has been allocated to Coventry for its UK City of Culture 2021 plans.

Backed by the West Midlands Combined Authority, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight has launched Create Central to boost the region’s creative output and promote the area as a production base.

Evidence suggests Peaky Blinders has contributed to an uplift in screen tourism to the West Midlands, but the series is largely shot in Yorkshire and was initially funded by Screen Yorkshire.

A planning application has been submitted for the £70m redevelopment of Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The stadium will increase its permanent seating capacity from 12,700 to 18,000, and with additional temporary seating the capacity will be more than 30,000.

In Herefordshire, the Council is reviewing the southern link road and Hereford bypass projects.

If the local authority decides to scrap the former, then The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership will seek to retrieve its £3.8m which has been already spent on the project. Whilst greater devolution from Westminster has its benefits, infrastructure funding from multiple agencies also has its difficulties.

In Shrewsbury, the run-down Riverside Mall shopping centre and nearby medical practice, multi-storey car park and bus station could get redeveloped after an intervention by Shropshire Council following market failure.

The authority has asked for designs for the nine-acre Riverside precinct, eight years after a £150m upgrade from the previous owners did not proceed. The council is hoping to appoint consultants by early December, with phased demolition due to start by the end of next year.


Up to 200 jobs are to be axed by Stoke-on-Trent City council. Reduced headcount will come through voluntary redundancies, as well as leaving 64 posts vacant. The cuts will enable the council to divert funds in to children’s services.

Wrexham-based firm Tomlinson Dairies, which had operations in Shropshire, has gone into administration. The firm employed 330 overall.


CBI West Midlands, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, London, the North East and North West regional directors have urged the government to build the HS2 rail project in full.

However, a paper by the Adam Smith Institute, also released this month, claims that HS2 will deliver limited benefits and that some Northern cities could lose direct trains to London.

It recommends instead, upgrading existing routes with new signalling, doubling the number of tracks, reopening mothballed lines, building new sections of railway and targeting bottlenecks at key junctions.

Bus services in Birmingham and Dudley are to be upgraded with £30m of funding for new express lanes, upgrading junctions and better bus stops. The Department for Transport has committed £24m with the balance of the funding from West Midlands Bus Alliance partners, (Birmingham City Council and Transport for West Midlands, part of the West Midlands Combined Authority.)

The money forms part of the government’s long-term bus strategy and £220m funding settlement, which it hopes will see many cuts to services reversed. There will also be support for local authorities who want to create London-style franchised services in their areas. Greater Manchester is due to consult on adopting a proposed franchised model shortly.

Tram operator West Midlands Metro has bought 21 battery-powered trams from manufacturer CAF. The £83.5m deal includes the trams, technical support and battery management services over 30 years.

The trams will operate on new sections of the line between Grand Central and Hagley Road which are free of overhead cables. The current fleet will also be fitted with battery units.