Private sector job creation in London versus the rest of the UK: confusion over the facts. Photo: Wikimedia
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Sorting fact from fiction: jobs in London vs. rest of UK

Labour is claiming today that 8 out of 10 new private sector jobs created since 2010 have been in London; the Tories say 3 out of 4 of them have been created outside the capital. Which is it?

The final report in Lord Adonis’s Growth Review has been making waves today, but not entirely in the way Labour likely expected.

The former Labour Transport Secretary’s “Mending the Fractured Economy” report has been widely commended for its ambitious plans for regional devolution in the UK to combat the economic growth bias in London.

This need to bolster growth in regions outside the capital is partially based on, and most strikingly illustrated by, a somewhat questionable statistic, however.

The report states that “four fifths of all net jobs created since 2010 are in London”. The figure comes from a report by the Centre for Cities, an independent research organisation, published this year but which refers to job figures between 2010 and 2012.

The four fifths figure quoted also refers to private sector, rather than all, job creation in the Centre for Cities report.

Although the statistic has caught the imagination of the public and been widely shared on social media today, updated figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) paint a rather different picture of regional job creation under the current government.

The ONS shows that 75 per cent of all new private sector jobs have in fact been created outside of London, a fact brought to my attention by the number of Conservative MPs quoting it on Twitter.

I’ve checked the CCHQ maths so you don't have to (though if you want to, you can download the datasets here; table 7 contains all regional private sector job figures since 2008), and the ONS figures show that since 2010, 1.63m private sector jobs have been created outside the capital, compared with 570,000 in London.

Admittedly the ONS data is based on surveys that  measure employment by place of residence, so are likely to undercount the number of people who work in London but live elsewhere. Meanwhile the Centre for Cities figure is based on data from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES), which looks at employment by workplace, so will accurately reflect the geographical location of new jobs.

But the ONS datasets are released quarterly, so they are far more up-to-date than those based on BRES, which is published annually and has not yet released its 2013 figures.

Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones said: “While no dataset is perfect, BRES data gives a more accurate picture of where jobs are located, rather than where employed people live.”

David Gauke, Tory MP for South West Hertfordshire and Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, was nonetheless piqued by Labour's use of the Centre for Cities statistics, tweeting earlier:

Other senior Tories have been griping that the government has already adopted many of the conclusions in Adonis’s report.

One Conservative source pointed out to me that the key proposal to allow cities and county regions to keep more of their tax revenues is already part of the government’s City Deals scheme, which allows cities like Manchester to retain some of the tax revenues they generate through local growth, which they can then invest in local infrastructure.

On the BBC’s Today programme this morning, the similarity between the recommendations in Adonis’s report and those in Conservative Michael Heseltine’s regional growth plan, which have been accepted by George Osborne, was pointed out.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.