The State of Britain

London average property prices fall the most in the UK and Transport for London starts tracking all phones on its network

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Unemployment in London decreased by 9,000 to 209,000 between March and May, a decrease of 0.2% to 4.3%. At 2.6% the South West of England had the lowest rate and at 5.6% the North East had the highest rate in the country. The UK unemployment rate stands at 3.8%.

London average property prices were the worst performing in the UK and fell by 2.5% to £457,471 during the month which meant annually prices dropped by 4.4%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.1% to £229,431 during May which reduced the annual growth rate to 1.2%.

In its review this month of the 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – the private sector-led partnerships between businesses and local public sector bodies that support local economic growth – the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons found that from 2015-16 to date; £9.1bn of taxpayers’ money has been awarded to LEPs through three tranches of Growth Deals. London, with one LEP, has received £435m, the north of England, with 11 LEPs, has received most of the funding at £3.4bn (38%), and the East of England, with three LEPs, has received the least with £703m.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government considers the population of an area as well as the strength of the LEP’s strategic economic plans and projects when deciding Growth Deal allocations. There are no overlapping LEP areas in London which means the capital will be able to bid for funds from the Government’s proposed Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU structural funding after Brexit. The Ministry does not to evaluate the Local Growth Fund which means it has no understanding of what impact spending through LEPs has on local economic growth. The latest growth figures for the city from ESCoE showed growth at 2.7% which compared with the UK average of 1.5%.

The 24 Enterprise Zones designated in England in 2011 to improve economic growth had created 17,307 jobs by 2017 instead of the forecast 54,000 jobs by 2015. BBC-commissioned research conducted by think tank charity Centre for Cities also found that in two areas the number of jobs had fallen. Enterprise zones offered cheaper business rates, superfast broadband and lower levels of planning control. According to the research 741 jobs were created in the London Royal Docks Zone, the 9th best performing zone in England. The cost of the scheme is disputed, with The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government claiming £101m, £215m less than the BBC’s estimate of £316m+. The Ministry also disputes the methodology used in the research. A further 24 Zones were created in 2016 and 2017.

On transport, Transport for London (TfL) has started using its wi-fi start collect mobile phone data as commuters move about the network. Data was collected anonymously from 5.6m mobile devices during a four-week pilot in 2016 which revealed the potential for huge efficiencies and improved customer experience. The data will enable TfL to deploy staff to busy areas and message commuters at every stage of their journeys, suggesting different routes to avoid overcrowding or disruption, less busy trains and short cuts within stations. For example, the pilot project revealed better ‘platform management’ at Euston cut transfer times between the Northern Line and the Victoria Line from five minute to one minute as commuters took different routes. TfL has also announced plans for mobile users to have 4G access across the Tube network. The Jubilee Line will be the first to benefit, with the eastern half to get full mobile connectivity on both platforms and tunnels from March, the rest of the network should be enabled by the end of the year. There are already 260 wi-fi-enabled stations on the London Underground and on TfL rail services. The project is expected to require 1,242 miles of cabling with engineers working weeknight shifts to minimise disruption to passengers.

On development, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has advised planners to reject proposals for a new skyscraper dubbed ‘The Tulip’. In April, the City of London Corporation approved the 305m tower proposed for Bury Street, beside the Gherkin tower but the Mayor said it would harm the skyline and had few public benefits. The applicants have the right to appeal directly to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government within six months.