The State of Britain

The East of England has the second lowest unemployment rate in the UK, the region receives the least amount of growth funding and the Cambridge and Peterborough industrial strategy outlines how the Oxford – Cambridge arc is beginning to shape up

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Unemployment in the East of England decreased by 9,000 to 91,000 between March and May, the decrease of 0.3% to 2.8% meant the region had the second lowest rate 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%.

The East of England’s average property price increased by 0.7% to £291,239 during the month which uplifted the annual growth rate to 1.0%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.1% to £229,431 during May which reduced the annual growth rate to 1.2%.

Cambridge and Peterborough Business Board (formerly Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP) has become one of the first regions to agree a local industrial strategy with the government. The 87 page document was developed by the Business Board in collaboration with local businesses and was signed off by Business Secretary, Greg Clark.

The strategy included launching; a new trade & investment service which will co-ordinate government support and a service targeting inward investment, a new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Growth Company, creating at least four new ‘Innovation Launchpads’ focused on key sectors such as agri-tech, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing innovation, and establishing a new Skills, Talent and Apprenticeship hub.

The plan is one of four connected Local Industrial Strategies covering the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, a plan from the National Infrastructure Commission which is intended to safeguard the booming economies of the UK’s science and technology hub. The Arc will bring the large scale development of homes, offices and roads across central England and the re-opening of the previously closed Oxford to Cambridge railway. The other 3 areas are Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the South East Midlands.

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 East of England, with three LEPs, has received the least with £703m, London, with one LEP, has received £435m and the north of England, with 11 LEPs, has received most of the funding at £3.4bn (38%),

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 the East of England which means these LEPs will be able to bid for funds from the Government’s proposed Shared Prosperity Fund, that will replace EU structural funding after Brexit.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has received £291m, the 11th highest in England since 2015, Hertfordshire £265m and the Cambridge and Peterborough Business Board has received £147m. The South East LEP, which includes Essex, was awarded £591m, the third highest award in England. The Ministry does not to evaluate the Local Growth Fund which means it has no understanding of the impact spending through LEPs has on local economic growth. The latest growth figures for the region from ESCoE showed growth at 1.9% which compared with the UK average of 1.5%.

The 24 Enterprise Zones designated in England in 2011 to improve economic growth 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 1,057 jobs were created in the Harlow Enterprise Zone, the sixth best performing zone in England, and 269 jobs in the New Anglia Enterprise Zone which was less successful.

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.