Wages in Weston-Super-Mare drop the most in the country, the UK’s first Superbus network trialled in Cornwall and plans to suspend people above Bristol in a bubble

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Unemployment in the SW decreased by 7,000 to 70,000 between June and August, which took the overall rate to 2.4%, the lowest in the UK. The UK rate is 3.9% with the highest rate of 5.8% recorded in the North East.

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with a UK rate of 75.9%.

SW average property prices increased by 0.7% to £260,901, which took annual growth to 0.9%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

Analysis by the BBC has found workers living in seaside areas in Great Britain earn on average £1,600 less per year than those living inland. Since 2010 wages fell by c25% in real terms in Weston-Super-Mare, the biggest drop in the UK.

Overall, in coastal constituencies median wages were £22,104 compared with £23,785 in non-coastal areas.

The ONS’s Personal Well-being (or Happiness) Index has ranked the SW tenth out of the 12 UK ‘regions in terms of improved happiness since the last survey. Overall though, the Northern Irish were still the happiest in the UK with Londoners still the most miserable.

Development

There was some disquiet from ratepayers across the county after it was revealed that canny Cheltenham Borough Council has borrowed c£40m from five other councils to fund the purchase of 45 hectares of land for a cyber business park and up to 3,000 homes near GCHQ.

Cheltenham borrowed £15m from Middlesbrough Borough Council, £4m from Derby City Council, £10m from South Lanarkshire Council and £5m each from Anglesey and Powys councils.

A Freedom of Information request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service was no doubt viewed as inconvenient by some councillors across the UK, who faced questions from voters wondering why the money was not spent on public services in their own areas.

More innovation in Cheltenham, this time the Borough Council has agreed a land swap with Gloucestershire County Council, enabling the building of a hub for start-ups.

The hub is aimed at young entrepreneurs who might otherwise leave the town plus the creative sector. The project was also supported by the Local Enterprise Partnership, GFirst LEP.

Cornwall’s Eden Project will drill almost three miles underground as part of a geothermal project which will produce power for its own needs and the local area.

Public money makes up the bulk of the Eden’s £17m funding, £9.9m from the European Regional Development Fund, £1.4m from Cornwall Council and institutional investors contributing the remaining £5.5m.

The funding will pay for one well which will initially supply a district heating system for the biomes, offices and greenhouses at Eden. A second well could later feed an electricity plant.

The London Eye, the Angel of the North and the Eden Project were all innovative and have all brought in vast numbers of visitors to their respective areas. Now a £13.5m glass observation cabin has been proposed in the centre of Bristol.

Suspended between two masts, the cabin would lift up to 42 passengers above the city offering 360-degree views. Arc Bristol would be 69m tall and be located by the harbour side.

Jobs

Despite good regional labour figures there were some notable disappointments this month.

Japanese car parts company Honda Logistics UK is to shut its operations in Swindon next year. The firm supplies Honda but it is not part of the Honda group.

The closure is directly linked with Honda’s decision to end production of its cars in Swindon in 2021, 1,200 jobs at Honda Logistics are at risk.

In Wiltshire, Dyson is to close its automotive division because its new electric car is not commercially viable. Although the firm aims to redeploy as many workers as possible, 500 jobs could go. Dyson has invested £200m in the project and can only be applauded for trying.

A call centre in Derriford, Plymouth, run by Sitel on behalf of the John Lewis Partnership will be impacted by the retailer’s decision to strengthen its in-house contact centres. John Lewis said about 200 jobs would go but call centre managers have told staff to expect more than 300 redundancies.

Meat processing firm, Tulip, has begun consultation over proposals to close its factory in Bodmin, 270 jobs are at risk. The firm says the Cornish plant is currently not viable and is seeking a joint recovery plan with stakeholders to see if its future can be secured.

On some measures, parts of Bodmin are some of the most deprived in the UK.

Transport

Superbus networks will introduce low fares and bus priority measures to speed up journeys and improve reliability. The networks form part of the government’s long-term bus strategy and £220m funding settlement, which it hopes will see many cuts to services reversed.

The UK’s first Superbus network will be established across Cornwall. The fares pilot is part of a project to create an integrated public transport system for the county.

Cornwall has been chosen as the county has significant deprivation and social exclusion. Buses are disproportionately used by people on lower incomes.

The region did well on infrastructure investment this month.  Of the £100m spend announced by the Department of Transport, £45.4m was in the SW where two new roads will be built.

There was £22.5m for improving the intersection between the A419 and A420 to the east of Swindon and £22.9m for the construction of an access road to the Wichelstowe development site under the M4 motorway.

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