Rochdale News | News Headlines | Investment zones are a ‘cheap and unpleasant’ attempt to level off, claims the council’s economics chief

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Date published: September 24, 2022


New ‘investment zones’ due to be announced by the government this week have been branded a ‘cheap and nasty’ attempt at upgrading by the Rochdale regeneration cabinet member.

It is understood the government has written to around 40 councils inviting them to submit proposals for the zones, which will offer tax breaks and ease environmental regulations in a bid to boost economic activity.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwareng is expected to give the green light to the initiative during Friday’s mini-budget – the first “fiscal event” under new Prime Minister Liz Truss.

But Councilor John Blundell, a member of Rochdale Council’s economy and regeneration cabinet, is far from convinced the zones will bring real benefits to less prosperous parts of the country.

“[To say] ‘if you move here, you don’t have to pay taxes’ is not a good advertisement for a place,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. “It’s a cheap and nasty way to deal with systemic issues.”

The council boss believes that, rather than being a new policy, the investment zones merely “revise” tried and failed American ideas from the 1970s and 1980s.

“It basically displaces economic activity, using tax incentives, which isn’t necessarily what places need,” he said.

“Places need investment, they need infrastructure, they need a team of people to develop places – rather than giving tax breaks to companies to move to places that the government finds advantageous.

“They should focus on investing in places. They just pander to the ideals of the right.

However, Councilor Blundell said Rochdale would accept an area for investment as the ‘Atom Valley’ municipal development area is a ‘prime area for this type of activity’.

Signed in August, Atom Valley spans three sites in Rochdale – two of which cross borders with Oldham and Bury. Local leaders say it has the potential to provide 1.6 million square meters of new employment space, create around 20,000 jobs and deliver 7,000 new homes.

Councilor Blundell believes the Investment Zone could work effectively in conjunction with Atom Valley – which is itself part of Places for Everyone, Greater Manchester’s new long-term development plan.

“If it goes hand in hand with creating a development company – which is staffed and has access to funds to build the roads, install the trams and install the utilities, and can talk to international companies and it there’s a series of things around it and the resource to do it – that would be helpful, he said.

“In Rochdale we would take one but, overall, if you’re going to offer one, does it really matter whether it’s Rochdale or Bolton? All you’re doing is providing corporate tax breaks.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Information Service

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