What Have They got to Hide? Part 3 Enterprise Zone

Enterprise Zone Promised Jobs have not been delivered
Enterprise Zone Promised Jobs have not been delivered

What Have They got to Hide? Part 3 Enterprise Zone

When I wrote asking whether the statements about the success of the SEMLEP Northampton Waterside Enterprise Zone were more fiction than fact and fallacy than truth I faced, as expected, criticism and personal abuse mainly from the Conservatives accusing me of talking down Northampton.

The latest information however proves that the claims from the Conservatives of successfully attracting inward investment and creating the promised ‘new’ jobs in the Enterprise Zone are simply untrue.

Over the past two years Cllrs Hadland and Mackintosh as those responsible for regeneration have insisted that the Enterprise Zone and the creation of ‘new’ jobs is under the banner of Northampton Alive a great success.

In 2011 when I and the officers of the Council successfully gained the support from our 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.

Good grief even the Local media were excited and complimentary.

Just to recap,

The principle on which the Enterprise Zone was awarded 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 Northampton 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.

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 growth and economic strategy.

The problem of course is that up to April 2013 only a paltry 1,700 jobs have been created in all of the Enterprise Zones.

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 within the coalition has started with Eric Pickles MP blaming Vince Cable MP for not convincing foreign business to invest in the UK?

The facts according to the coalition Government themselves are that the Enterprise Zones have failed to deliver the regeneration and jobs they were designed to deliver.

Locally of course claims from the Northampton Borough Council Conservatives just don’t add up and the constant referral to the statement from David Cameron that “Northampton was an engine for the economy” is simply ridiculous.

The claim by Cllr Mackintosh that the ‘new’ businesses he has brought to the town which has created hundreds of ‘new’ jobs is as is shown by the latest information I have obtained from the Borough Council a fallacy.

More importantly he must know it’s a fallacy so why say it and what else is he hiding?

In the two years up to October 2013 since Cllr Mackintosh and Hadland took control of the Council there have been 113 tentative enquiries from people/businesses who have expressed a potential interest in the Enterprise Zone.

Of the 113 enquiries I am told that only 6 ‘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 following the closure of their Leeds plant even before EZ’s were awarded.

The other three companies locating to 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 of how “he has have bucked the trend and put Northampton Back on Track” was supported by a claim that over 500 new jobs would be created in the Enterprise Zone by the end of April 2013.

The fact is that by the end of April 2013 only 66 permanent jobs have been created of which 60 are in the Carlsberg plant which was already in train.

In effect only six ‘New’ permanent jobs had been created.

The situation hasn’t significantly improved between April and October 2013 with only 54 jobs having been created many of which are temporary.

Apparently it isn’t clear how many are temporary and how many of the jobs are permanent!!!

What is does mean is that in effect in the two years since October 2011 less than 20 permanent ‘new’ jobs have been created in the EZ

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 construction phase.

What is or at least should be raising real concerns is the apparent lack of enquiries from high-tech and high performance engineering companies.

The announcement and recent decision to grant outline planning permission for the relocation of the University is welcome but will it create additional ‘new’ and permanent jobs?

Will the rail station provide ‘new’ jobs?

The Northampton Conservatives made great play of the fact that the trade delegation to India had led to some enquiries about which there has been an ominous silence especially regarding what type of companies have made enquiries.

Are they the high quality jobs that the Enterprise Zone was supposed to attract or more distribution and call centre jobs?

The problems associated with the failure to develop and attract the jobs don’t of course only impact on Northampton but on the whole of the SEMLEP region and those companies who will be reliant on the supply chain to ‘new’ EZ businesses.

SEMLEP itself are of course reliant on the revenue from the business rates which would be available to be used to help regeneration elsewhere in the region.

The failure of the Enterprise Zone to attract new businesses and create new jobs rather than the relocation of businesses from existing sites in Northampton is essential to the future prosperity of the town.

We should also consider that in the past two years and whilst there has been lots of announcements not a single currently existing prestigious businesses has relocated to the
Enterprise Zone.

It is all very well providing what has now become a regular monthly announcement from the Conservatives that the new Northgate Bus Station, new Railway Station, new University Accommodation on St Johns, et al is “still being built”, but what jobs and economic impact will they have on the regeneration of Northampton?

The purpose of the Enterprise Zone was to create over 10,000 ‘new’ jobs.

A purpose that it has significantly failed to achieve.

It is time the Conservatives came 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 of success but on really attracting new businesses.

Cllr Mackintosh and his friends can’t hide the fact that in spite of their spin the evidence of the Northampton Conservatives failure to attract inward investment and jobs to the Enterprise Zone is very clear.

Which begs the question,

When will they accept responsibility, admit the truth and stop peddling the fallacy?

Or is their reliance on political spin, deceit and deception now considered normal practice for the Northampton Conservatives?

The real question is,

“What apart and in addition to their failure are the Northampton Conservatives trying to hide”?