We need good infrastructure to get our regions working again

Enterprise zones and beyond: good roads, high speed broadband and functioning transport hubs are essential to ensure prosperity for all.

Last month, the government announced its latest initiative to drag the regional economy out of the doldrums. Amid all the recent local debates about the HS2 rail network – whether or not it’ll benefit anybody outside the capital, if it’s costing us too much and the to-ing and fro-ing about compulsory purchases, one message may have been slightly lost. According to communities secretary Eric Pickles, the Treasury will soon be setting up a £100 million fund to encourage infrastructure investment in specially selected ‘enterprise zones’ across England and Wales. This is all well and good, but what exactly are these zones and how will investing in them be of any benefit to areas that have been hit hard in recent years?

Enterprise zones are specially selected areas in towns and cities where things such as business rate discount, superfast broadband, capital allowances and various other incentives are introduced. The aim of Pickles’ latest scheme is to encourage businesses to flourish for the benefit of the local area. Across the country, twenty-four of these zones have been set up. If they are going to help boost the economy they need businesses to be successful and if businesses are to be successful they need things like good quality roads, high-speed broadband, car parks and public transport hubs so people can get in and out. This is what the money is designed to provide.

I think this is great news for the regional economy and is something RICS have been asking government to bring in for some time. If the capital is the nation’s financial heart, then the regions are most definitely the backbone. Put simply, we need to do all we can to ensure jobs are created and prosperity returns to each and every part of the country. If we ignore this then the long-awaited economic recovery could well take a lot longer than expected.

With these funds in place, construction firms will be able to bid for individual contracts. Naturally, successful bids need to be vetted to make sure they represent value for money, but the key thing is that we get things moving as quickly as possible. Waiting until the winter simply will not do if we want the regional economy to start to flourish again. What is needed is the right amount of investment in the right areas, but most importantly, we need growth now. 

Roads, communications technology, car parks and transport hubs will be essential to boosting regional economies. Photograph: Getty Images.

Mark Walley is Regional Managing Director of RICS EMEA.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.