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Enterprise Zone – Fiction or Fact – Truth or Fallacy?
Over the past 18 months at every opportunity and in spite of the evidence to the contrary the Conservative Leader of the Borough Council has insisted on claiming that the Enterprise Zone and especially the creation of new jobs is a success.
But is it Fact or Fiction? Truth of Fallacy?
In 2011 when I successfully gained the support of the other partners in the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, SEMLEP for short, to put Northampton forward as their preferred choice for an Enterprise Zone it was acknowledged as a great step forward for the town.
The whole principle on which the award of the Enterprise Zone was based was that it would be a National Centre of Excellence with the potential to develop over 420,000 square metres of high value commercial and industrial floor space.
What was emphasised in the bid was that the Waterside Enterprise Zone would be a national centre for precision and high performance engineering taking advantage of the already existing motor sport organisations in and around Northampton.
The other advantages of course was the geographical location of Northampton with over 50% of England’s population living within 100 miles and that sites were ready for development with excellent supporting infrastructure already in place.
As one of the twenty four Enterprise Zones, the Northampton EZ is essential to the coalition Governments growth agenda who described them as the “engine room” of the government’s local growth strategy.
The problem of course is that up to April this year a paltry 1,700 jobs have been created in all of the Enterprise Zones.
An average of only seventy jobs per Enterprise Zone.
Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister and Chancellor have taken to criticising their colleagues for failing to deliver and that the ‘blame’ game has started within the coalition with Eric Pickles apparently blaming Vince Cable for not convincing foreign business to invest in the UK?
And for good measure both of them blaming Maria Miller for failing to provide the super fast broadband to all of the Enterprise Zones.
The facts according to the coalition Government themselves are that the Enterprise zones have failed to deliver the regeneration they were designed for and locally he claims from the Northampton Borough Council Conservatives just don’t add up.
The Leader claim that hundreds of jobs have been created is simply a fallacy as shown by the latest information I have obtained from the Borough Council.
In the 18 months up to April this year there has been 96 enquiries from people/businesses who have expressed a potential interest in being located in the Enterprise Zone.
Of the 96 enquiries we are told that only 4 ‘NEW’ businesses have moved into the Enterprise Zone.
But are they ‘NEW’?
The major development has been the expansion of Carlsberg and the £20m bottling plant which was already in the pipeline with the company having already invested over £30m in the Northampton site and the closure of their Leeds plant before EZ’s were awarded.
The other three companies locating in the EZ being the University Student Accommodation on the St Johns Surface car park, Three County Tyres and the Logo Studio.
The statement from the Leader of the Council last year as part of his statements of how “we have bucked the trend and put Northampton Back on Track” was that over 500 new jobs would be created in the Enterprise Zone by the end of April 2013.
The fact is that only 66 permanent jobs have been created and 60 of them in the Carlsberg plant which was already in train.
In effect only six ‘New’ permanent jobs have been created.
All jobs of course are welcome and the construction of the new bottling plant and students accommodation has provided employment for those employed in existing companies during the building phase.
What should be raising real concerns is the apparent lack of enquiries from high-tech and high performance engineering companies.
The announcement of the relocation of the University is welcome but will it create additional new and permanent jobs?
Will the new rail station provide new jobs?
We are told that the recent trade delegation to India has led to some enquiries which if they come to fruition will be welcome but there has been an ominous silence regarding what type of companies have made enquiries.
Are they the high quality jobs that the Enterprise Zone was supposed to attract or distribution and call centre jobs?
The problems associated with the failure to develop and attract the jobs doesn’t of course only impact on Northampton but on the whole of the SEMLEP area and companies who are relying on the supply chain to EZ businesses and the revenue from business rates to be used to help regeneration elsewhere.
The failure of the Enterprise Zone to attract new businesses and create new jobs rather than just the relocation of businesses from existing sites in Northampton is essential to the future prosperity of the town.
It is time for the Conservatives to come clean and no matter how welcome the news that existing companies are going to remain in Northampton the future growth and regeneration of the town depends not on false claims but attracting new businesses.
What is clear is that for all of the spin the facts don’t support the statements from the Conservative Leader of the Borough Council.
Which begs the question,
When will they accept and admit the truth and stop peddling the fallacy?
Or is it that the ‘act of being deceptive’ is now considered normal practice for the Northampton Conservatives?