Once again the words of Professor David Bailey [Coventry, International Business Strategy and Economics]  in the Birmingham Post strike a chord. 

A centralist approach?

He has several misgivings: “as with much of actual policy surrounding the Government’s so-called ‘localism’ agenda, the current approach is in fact centralist and highly opaque. It’s the Government who decides how the zones are set up, how many there are, and who gets them.” 

Value for money?

Professor Bailey questions ‘value for money’, citing the ‘80s precedent, when around £300 million was spent on 11 zones where some 4,300 firms employed some 63,000 workers, but the number of new jobs created was just 13,000. He comments: “That works out at £23,000 a job – maybe £50,000 in today’s money. That’s not very good value for money.”

The best location? 

The first sites announced (Manchester airport, the Boots Campus in Nottingham, dockland near the Olympic site and the Liverpool waterfront), may well have attracted investment and jobs any way.

Disadvantaging areas of deprivation and even creating them? 

Not only could the creations of these zones in the region make it more difficult for areas of deprivation to attract new jobs, but the risk that neighbouring areas will lose firms who move over the border to benefit from tax breaks is mentioned.

Positive suggestions:

Localise West Midlands’ evaluation concludes that, in order to support strong local economies and sustainable development, as oil prices rise and future energy security is in question, West Midlands’ LEPs should engage with the voluntary sector where appropriate and develop better approaches to:

  • identifying the external factors that stop small businesses from thriving;
  • emphasising economic diversity, local multiplier, harnessing procurement;
  • investigating the opportunities from local resources, land-based industries, food production; and
  • addressing areas of need/deprivation as well of opportunity.

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LWM would heartily agree with Professor Bailey’s  conclusion: 

“We need to see a much greater devolution of real economic powers – and an accompanying ability to raise finance – to the local level.”