Tuesday 13 April 2010

Coalfield Regeneration

Catching up on some reading - specifically, the report on Regenerating the English Coalfields by the Committee of Public Accounts. Its conclusions on the effectiveness of interventions make for depressing, although not totally surprising reading.

The interventions have spent £630m so far on bring 54 coalfield sites back in to working use. But the committee "[has] serious concerns about the value for money of the coalfield initiatives. The Department does not know what improvement the initiatives had made to the lives of people living in the coalfield areas, as it does not have a robust assessment to prove to us the true number of additional jobs created. Nor does it know the business occupancy rates for employment space on the redeveloped sites, or the number of people from former coalfield communities who have benefited. The number of jobs the initiatives had helped to create could be anywhere between 8,000 and 16,000. We are concerned that public money has been invested to create jobs that would have been created anyway."

As I said, depressing - but not that surprising - once again lots of money on new buildings (physical regeneration represents a disproportionate amount of the money) has very unclear impacts on individual deprivation.

I am not that surprised about the fact that net job creation is poorly documented - this problem bedevils the assessment of RDA spatial interventions as well.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Public Sector Relocation

It's been a very busy few weeks and I am only now getting the chance to catch up with a number of things, including the budget.

One of the big spatial issues was the decision to continue the process of reallocating jobs out of central London.

This may well deliver long term cost savings (although the case is often overstated by muddling in efficiency savings with relocation savings) but the evidence on its impact on regional economies is essentially non-existant.

The direct impact on local economies come from the "multiplier" effects of civil service expenditure on local suppliers (including that of civil sector employers). These effects are clearly positive. Offsetting this are the indirect negative effects from the fact that relatively high public sector wages mean that public sector employment crowds out private sector employment. Early reports assumed this crowding out would be complete, later reports assume it will not be. But these are simple assumptions backed up by some multiplier modelling. As far as I can see systematic ex-post evaluation of the local impact of previous relocations is not available. More on this once I have had a chance to dig a little deeper.