Northern Powerhouse: Government to increase number of enterprise zones as part of regeneration strategy

Zones were launched three-and-a-half years ago and have attracted around £2.2bn of investment

Mark Leftly
Deputy Political Editor
@MLeftly
Saturday 07 November 2015 22:05
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George Osborne visits Birmingham’s enterprise zone in 2011
George Osborne visits Birmingham’s enterprise zone in 2011

The Government is to announce the increase of the number of business-boosting enterprise zones in England, from 24 to around 40, in the Autumn Statement this month. The zones were launched three-and-a-half years ago and have attracted around £2.2bn of investment and created nearly 19,000 jobs.

This summer, the Government asked towns and districts to team up with local enterprise partnerships, another initiative, to bid for the latest round of enterprise zones. The zones offer 100 per cent discount on business rates, worth up to £275,000 over five years, and are given superfast broadband to help firms expand. Planning rules have been simplified to remove the bureaucracy frequently cited by businesses as one of the biggest obstacles to growth.

The zones are central to the Government’s regeneration strategy and will be used to help fulfil George Osborne’s vision of a “Northern Powerhouse” to rebalance the economy away from its dependence on London and the South-east. The biggest beneficiaries so far have been the North, which has received £1.1bn of investment, and the Midlands, where enterprise zones have created more than 6,500 jobs.

Applications were submitted in September. A source close to the Government said that between 15 and 20 extra enterprise zones were likely to be approved. Mr Osborne encouraged small towns and rural areas to bid; existing zones are scattered across England, including parts of Manchester, Bristol and Sheffield.

In August, the Communities minister, James Wharton, spoke in Bristol about an £11.3m bridge being built with money from the enterprise zone. He said: “Investment and innovation are at the heart of enterprise zones and this bridge project is a testament to what can be achieved when the public and private sector work together to support businesses and create jobs.”

The Autumn Statement is the Chancellor’s biggest set piece of the year, after the Budget. This time it has taken on even greater significance as it will coincide with the Comprehensive Spending Review, the first since 2010.

This will set out spending cuts of between 25 and 40 per cent for most departments. The Chancellor has vowed to balance the country’s books by the end of this parliament and sees the cuts as vital to achieving this ambition.

A communities department spokesman said: “Enterprise zones [are vital] in growing the local and national economy and have attracted more than 19,000 jobs, over 500 businesses and billions of pounds of investment.

“The Government launched a new round this year, so even more areas could benefit. Any further decisions will be announced as part of the Autumn Statement and Spending Review.”

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