Unemployment in the East Midlands decreased by 8,000 to 105,000 between February and April, the drop of 0.4% to 4.3% was the best in Great Britain. At 2.7% and 5.7% the SW of England and the North East had the lowest and highest unemployment rates in the country. The UK unemployment rate stands at 3.8%.
East Midland’s average property prices increased by 0.9% to £192,682 during the month which uplifted the annual growth rate to 2.9%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.7% to £228,903 during April which held the annual growth rate at 1.4%.
Nottingham has been named the UK’s poorest city, narrowly beating Leicester by £115 per household according to the latest figures from the ONS. Nottingham has the UK’s lowest gross disposable household income (wages or benefits) of £12,445 a year after tax. Leicester – which won the dubious title in 2013 and 2014 – had gross disposable household income of £12,560 a year while in Derby the figure was £14,556. The UK average is £19,514 per household with some London boroughs like Kensington and Chelsea recording household income over £60,000, a growth rate of 4.9% from the previous year. At 1.7% East Derbyshire had the third highest decrease in household income. Whilst a large student population and the way local authority boundaries are drawn may depress the figures every year, a decline in household income of 0.3% in Nottingham and 1.5% in Leicester is more difficult to explain away. Last month a report by law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), predicted that by 2020 Derby will have the lowest economic growth of any city in England (0.6%).
On the trains, Midlands Connect has submitted a proposal for £2bn of improvements to the rail network between the East and West Midlands. The plans would mean direct services between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham for the first time since 2004. The upgrade would be completed in phases between 2024 and 2033. Midlands Connect was formed in 2014 and is a collaboration of 11 LEPs, Network Rail, Highways England, central government, 26 local authorities and the business community. It is the body behind long-term transport plans for the region. Rail use in the Midlands has risen by 37% over the past decade but rail capacity has not materially increased. The upgrades would create space for an extra 24 passenger trains an hour, 85,000 further seats a day in and out of Birmingham and an estimated six million more journeys each year. The economic benefit is an estimated £649m pa by 2037. Key components of the spend would be £15m to £25m on freight loops and track improvements in Leicester, £150m to £200m on improving the Leicester Corridor to Birmingham and £15m to £25m on enhancements around Nottingham. Going under the West Coast Main Line at Nuneaton or going over it via a flyover would cost £110m to £250m. Midlands Connect has asked the Department of Transport for £25m to firm up the details in an outline business plan.
Dutch-owned Abellio, which will replace East Midlands Trains as the operator of the East Midlands franchise from August, has unveiled the purple branding it plans to use. The firm will invest £600m in new trains and upgrades to existing rolling stock with the fleet rebranded in stages between 2020 and 2022. East Midlands Railway or EMR, will be divided into three segments. The EMR Intercity identity will be used for long-distance trains between Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicester and London on the Midland Mainline, whilst EMR Regional is the new name for east-west routes and regional routes, such as Liverpool – Nottingham – Norwich. EMR Electrics will introduce a new service between London St Pancras, Luton Airport Parkway and Corby. A plan to reopen a Nottingham line for passenger services has also moved a step forward. Ashfield District Council has put a feasibility study out to tender for the project, which would see the existing freight-only line reopened and upgraded to connect Kirkby-in-Ashfield with the new HS2 hub in Toton via Pinxton, Selston, Langley Mill and Ilkeston.
On infrastructure, North Northamptonshire Investment Framework has outlined £307m of delayed projects in the north of the county. These include the £42m Isham bypass and a £30m upgrade of the Corby Northern Orbital. In 2018, the government allowed the county council to spend £70m of its infrastructure fund on services and its £64m deficit. A ban on new spending was lifted three months ago and the plan for two unitary authorities to replace Northamptonshire County Council and seven other district and borough councils will come into force in April 2021. The estimated cost of the reorganisation is £44m, but the councils will also have to fill a £15m funding gap.
In Northampton, the Borough Council has delay the town’s bid to become the UK City of Culture avoiding a battle with Chelmsford, Luton and Southampton for the 2025 title. The UK City of Culture status is designated by the government every four years. Recent winners, Londonderry in 2013 and Hull in 2017 all benefited economically; Coventry will have the title in 2021. The council cited time constraints and funding as reasons why the bid would not take place.