The first new development corporation at Toton and the governance of Northamptonshire councils in the spotlight again

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Unemployment in the EM increased by 7,000 to 111,000 between June and August, which took the overall rate to 4.5%.

The South West continued to record the lowest unemployment 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 76.6% in the EM. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

EM’s average property prices increased by 1.8% to £197,682, which took annual growth to 2.6%. 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 EM fifth 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.

Development

Robert Jenrick, the Minister for the Midlands, has announced £10m of funding targeted at new development corporations which will enable councils to progress proposals to deliver more new towns and economic growth opportunities on the scale of Canary Wharf or Milton Keynes,

The first project, a new Development Corporation at Toton, will be led by the Midlands Engine chairman, Sir John Peace. Toton is located close to the M1, East Midlands Airport and the proposed HS2 rail hub.

Historically development corporations have helped established over 20 new towns including Milton Keynes and Telford, as well as delivering urban regeneration projects such as Canary Wharf.

Many of the laws needed to set up and run development corporations date from the early 1980s and a review is being undertaken to see whether they need to be updated.

Flooding affected economic development across the East Midlands as heavy rains hit the region.

As well as drivers stuck in floodwaters, events including the Matlock Bath Illuminations had to be called off. Last year Derbyshire Dales District Council spent £163K staging the event but this investment was more than recouped by c60K paying visitors.

A new £20m museum dedicated to motorsport has opened in Northamptonshire. The Silverstone Experience is housed in a World War Two hangar on the former aerodrome site and is expected to attract about 500,000 visitors a year.

The private sector funds for the project were more than matched by a £3m loan from South Northamptonshire Council and a £9.1m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Regional governance was again in the spotlight this month. A public interest report, undertaken by KPMG at a cost of c£100K, will investigate how Northamptonshire County Council collapsed after an overspend by £35m of its £416m 2017/18 budget.

Public interest reports are part of the Audit Commission Act 1998 and are issued when auditors believe they should highlight significant matters to the public.

The mismanagement led to roads not being gritted, libraries being taken over by the community and the government giving the council permission to raise council tax by 5%. The county council will cease to exist from spring 2021 with two new unitary authorities planned to replace the county and district councils at a cost of £60m.

Meanwhile, Northampton Borough Council’s £10.25m loan to Northampton Town in 2013/2014 to redevelop Sixfields stadium is being investigated by the police. The council has already apologised following a report by PwC in 2016 which said the loan was rushed through without sufficient checks.

Regional landmark, Cottam coal-fired power station, was turned off this month. Commissioned in 1968, the plant originally had an anticipated operational life of 30 years and was capable of generating enough electricity for 3.7m homes.

Work to decommission the power station has begun and is likely to involve levelling the buildings. The closure leaves six major coal-fired stations working in the UK.

Transport

CBI East Midlands, West 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.

Phase 2 of the project, (Birmingham to York via the East Midlands) is due to open at the end of 2033. Once the new Phase 1 line from Birmingham is completed, the line will head northeast and form the proposed East Midlands Hub located at Toton, which will serve Derby, Leicester and Nottingham.

The line would then connect with the northbound East Coast Mainline south of York. A parallel spur to the northbound HS2 track will use the Midland Main Line before rejoining the HS2 track east of Grimethorpe. Chesterfield and Sheffield will be served by HS2 classic compatible trains on this spur.

On the buses, Yourbus, which served routes in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, has ceased trading.

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