The State of Britain

North West house prices and unemployment increase the most in Britain, Lancashire has the worst performing Enterprise Zone and depopulation concerns along the West Cumbrian coast

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Unemployment in the North West increased by 9,000 to 150,000 between February and April, the uplift of 0.3% to 4.1% was the biggest in the UK. 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%.

North West average property prices increased by 0.8% to £164,261 during the month which uplifted the annual growth rate to 3.4% – the highest in Britain. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.1% to £229,431 during April 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. The north of England, with 11 LEPs, has received most of the funding at £3.4bn (38%), the East of England, with three LEPs, has received the least with £703m, and London, with one LEP, has received £435m.

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 LEPs in the North West which means that the regions LEPs will be able to bid for funds from the Government’s proposed Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU structural funding after Brexit. The Greater Manchester LEP has received £663m, the 2nd most in England, whereas Cumbria has received £60m, the lowest award in England. Other North West LEP’S awards have been Liverpool City £333m, Lancashire £321m and Cheshire and Warrington £201m. 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 North West from ESCoE showed the third lowest growth in the UK at 1.0%.

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 only 145 jobs were created in the Manchester Airport City Enterprise Zone, with 2,347 jobs lost in the Lancashire Enterprise Zone which made it the worst 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.

Cumbria and Carlisle City and the three other cross-border councils and the Scottish and UK governments have signed the heads of terms for the Borderlands Growth Deal. The two governments have confirmed funding of up to £350m and agreed to uplift the deal with an extra £45m. Projects under consideration include a £10m feasibility study into extending the Borders Railway beyond Tweedbank to Carlisle., Carlisle Station Gateway, Chapelcross Energy Park near Annan, Berwick Theatre and Conference Centre and the Mountain Bike Innovation Centre in the Borders. Second phase projects might include a play village at Alnwick Garden, the Star of Caledonia landmark sculpture at Gretna and a dairy innovation centre in Dumfries and Galloway. The funds will be deployed over 10 years by the Scottish government and over 15 years by the UK government.

BBC analysis of ONS projections has found thirty seaside towns could see a fall in the number of residents under the age of 30 by the year 2039, with the biggest decline in the north of England. Copeland could see a fall of 14%, the largest decline in England, with Barrow and Allerdale second and fifth. Coastal authorities in the south such as Bristol could see a 15% rise in the number of children and young people. The Coastal Communities Fund has invested £218m in 354 projects across the UK since 2012 with the latest figures showing 27% or c£25m deployed in the South West and 10% or £9m in the North East. In the spring, the House of Lords Select Committee on regenerating seaside towns found that Brighton and Bournemouth have shown that coastal areas can successfully regenerate and that the Government should secure town deals for other deprived seaside areas like Blackpool.