Chorley’s plan appears to be working

A few months back, Remarkable looked at how Chorley is putting itself on the map and leading the way in attracting investment for Lancashire. Recent figures appear to show that the strategy is working to some extent, with the borough having the highest employment rate in the North West at 84.2%.

There are many similar market towns across the region and, as the fruits of its labour begin to show, more councils may adopt Chorley’s approach of heavy public sector investment and business-friendly rhetoric. The Choose Chorley for Business campaign is said to have attracted £1.25m of private investment and created over 300 jobs in the past year. Coupled with the authority’s purchase of the main shopping area of the town centre, which has generated profits that the borough has used to offset budget cuts, the plan is proving to be effective.

The Council’s Leader, Alistair Bradley, is also the Chair of the council leaders’ group on combined authority matters, and the latest news for Chorley may give him leverage as the county looks to catch-up with other regions and get its share of Northern Powerhouse investment. Lindsay Hoyle MP, who has been heavily involved in developing Chorley’s plans, has also said that he has informed the Communities Secretary Greg Clark about the area’s success, and he is planning a visit.

As the borough continues to grow, the latest figures may provide developers and investors with some assurance that there is more than just rhetoric to what Chorley is doing, and we could see more investment in the area over the coming years. This would not only be of benefit to Chorley, but to Lancashire as a whole and to Mr Osborne, who would no doubt be delighted to see such a borough benefit from his Northern Powerhouse agenda.

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Assessing the actual additionality of campaigns such as this is a very dark art – BIS released info a while ago that there was no specific evidence that this type of inward investment campaign was in any way crucial to business decisions. What matters was hard cash / subsidy transfers – which, to its credit, Chorley have done (ring fencing new homes bonus instead of letting it be ‘lost’ in the general council budget). So I’d pay less heed to the marketing and more to their practical support and their quite enviable location with excellent road communications and a short train hop to Manc. I’ve said before their choice of getting involved in the shopping centre was bold and I’m glad it’s working out. There’s no reason a local authority can’t manage these things as well as the private sector (or better) and use valuable income to deliver services.

However, I have taken a stroll around Chorley recently and it’s obvious there’s not a load of money there. The quality of jobs is probably something to be concerned about. They should worry that they don’t get engaged in a race to the bottom.

By Sceptic