The South East Midlands industrial strategy unveiled and a ‘Meteor’ on its way to Leicester

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Unemployment in the East Midlands remained at 104,000 between March and May, a rate of 4.2%. 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 Midlands average property price decreased by 1.2% to £189,622 during the month which reduced annual growth rate to 0.4%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.1% to £229,431 during May which reduced the annual growth rate to 1.2%.

The South East Midlands, which includes Northamptonshire, has become one of the first regions to agree a local industrial strategy with the government. The 111 page document was developed by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership in collaboration with local businesses and was signed off by Business Secretary, Greg Clark. The strategy builds on the existing research and development strengths of the area, including work on automotive design, connected and autonomous vehicles, and the future of freight transport.

A key focus of the plan is positioning The South East Midlands as the ‘Connected Core’ of 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 means the large scale development of homes, offices and roads across central England and the re-opening of the previously closed Oxford to Cambridge railway.

In its review this month of the 37 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 is no overlapping LEP areas in the East Midlands 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. An overlap in the north of the region will disappear after Chesterfield withdraws from the Sheffield City Region (‘SCR’) LEP next year. The town is currently part of the SCR grouping and the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham & Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP.

The South East Midlands (including Northamptonshire) Local Enterprise Partnership has received £261m, the 13th highest in England since 2015, whereas Leicester and Leicestershire LEP has received £126m, the tenth lowest in England. Other East Midland’s LEPS awards have been D2N2 £257m and Greater Lincolnshire £155m. The Ministry does not to evaluate the Local Growth Fund which means it has no understanding of the impact that spending through LEPs has on local economic growth. The latest growth figures for the region from ESCoE showed growth at 1.6% which compared with the UK average of 1.5%.

Nearly £14m of funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF). has been approved for a space research centre in Leicester. The space park is a joint project between the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership LEP, the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council. The Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Earth Observation Research centre (METEOR) will be a part of Space Park Leicester – a facility due to open near the National Space Centre in 2020.

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 2,084 jobs were created in the Northampton Waterside Enterprise Zone, the fourth best performing zone in England, and 221 jobs in the Nottingham 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.

On jobs, Müller’s Foston dairy in Derbyshire is likely to cease operations by the end of 2019 with processing absorbed by its other dairies. The firm said the closure was due to declining fresh milk sales and will mean the loss of 223 jobs.

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