LEP hits back at enterprise zone ‘failure’ report

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Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has hit back strongly at a report which put the county’s enterprise zones at the bottom of a national league table of job creation.

The report, from research commissioned by the BBC, said that the number of jobs in Lancashire had fallen by more than 2,000 since the government announced the creation of the zones in 2011.

However the LEP said the league table was “misleading” and the report did not reflect “an accurate picture”. It says Lancashire’s four enterprise zones (EZs) will create 10,000 jobs over the coming years.

The government announced enterprise zones in England to try to improve economic growth, forecasting 54,000 new jobs between 2012 and 2015.

However, the BBC report said the research, conducted by think-tank Centre for Cities using data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed the number of jobs created fell short by nearly three-quarters of the amount predicted.

Lancashire came out worst in the research with a loss of 2,347 jobs. The Humber enterprise zone was the other area to have lost jobs by 2017 - with 320 less.

Principal economist Paul Swinney, from Centre for Cities, told the BBC the job losses in Lancashire and Humber were largely due to redundancies at BAE Systems.

The report does not reflect an accurate picture of Lancashire’s four Enterprise Zones which will create 10,000 jobs over the coming years

A BBC Freedom of Information request to 22 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), their councils and the government also suggested £316.6m of public cash had been spent on the overall enterprise zone scheme.

A LEP spokesperson told Lancashire Business View: “The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership believes that the BBC/Centre for Cities report does not reflect an accurate picture of Lancashire’s four Enterprise Zones which will create 10,000 jobs over the coming years, most of which will be highly skilled.

“In terms of the Samlesbury and Warton Enterprise Zones, upon which the figures are based, the LEP, Lancashire County Council and BAE Systems are confident these zones will generate 6,000 new jobs, with an additional 5,000-7,000 being created in the wider supply chain.

“We also have major projects in the pipeline at Samlesbury such as the proposed Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre North West, which will act as a transformational catalyst for economic growth, especially within the advanced manufacturing sector, as it has at AMRC Sheffield.”

They also highlighted the LEP’s support for BAE System’s £15.6m ASK training centre at Samlesbury.

To compare them in a league table based on largely out-of-date and incomplete data is we feel misleading.

The spokesperson said:  “By 2020 this facility alone will support 700 apprentices. In addition, we continue to invest millions in vocational training in schools and colleges across the county which is directly aligned to the job opportunities set to be generated by the Enterprise Zones.”

They added:  “Blackpool’s two Enterprise Zones, not covered in the Centre for Cities report, are an integral part of Lancashire's strategic economic plan. They have already helped to attract new investors, welcomed new occupiers and have created over 1,000 new jobs since their inception in 2016.

“Lancashire has also begun to promote all of its Enterprise Zones nationally and internationally as a unique industrial cluster. This reflects the growing commercial and technological convergence between the zones’ specialisms such as aerospace, automotive, energy and chemicals.

“This approach is now generating enquiries from developers, investors and employers from the UK and globally.

“Finally, the report fails to acknowledge that all of the country’s Enterprise Zones are very different; geographically, commercially and strategically, and that all are developing at a different pace.

“To compare them in a league table based on largely out-of-date and incomplete data is we feel misleading. EZs in strong city centres or around major airports for example are bound to accelerate more quickly, even if they displace and create lower skilled jobs.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also said it did not recognise the methodology used in the research.

A spokesperson told the BBC: “Enterprise Zones are just one part of our extensive package of support for communities - including the £12bn Local Growth Fund - which is creating jobs, helping local businesses to grow and building an economy that works for everyone.”