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.