A week is a long time in economics

Harold Wilson’s often quoted saying that a week is a long time in politics has never been as true as it is today, except that a week is now a long time in economics too.

It is difficult to focus on local political issues at a time of such seismic national change other than by reflecting on possible local impacts. The relative prosperity of North East Cheshire, is crucially dependent on the commercial exploitation of advanced science and technology. As a frequent critic of Cheshire East Council I have also commented positively on its ambition for the future use of Alderley Park for the incubation of new research led businesses, including University research spin-out companies.

Such businesses, and others established in this area, feed on cutting-edge research conducted, not just by universities in this region, but also research from further afield. The most obvious example is the cluster of research-led small biotech businesses in the Cambridge area that Astra-Zeneca sought to be close to by moving its own research facilities there.

I was alarmed to hear of universities in other parts of Europe removing, sometimes literally overnight, valued and respected UK partners from consortia working on new proposals for Horizon 2020 EU Research funding because of worries about their future eligibility. The money could be replaced. The partnerships are irreplaceable. A knowledge-based economy cannot succeed if its knowledge base is so seriously undermined.

kings-school.jpgReturning to matters that can be determined locally it will be interesting to see whether, on the very day this paper is published, the Cheshire East Council Strategic Planning Board votes to discredit its own Planning Strategy. Officers have recommended for approval the three King’s School applications before it. Approval would mean local residents being denied their right to oppose key elements of the Draft Local Plan when the government-appointed inspector resumes hearings in September. It would mean the council accepting 10% affordable housing rather than its benchmark 30% and a contribution towards provision of new school places of just £550,000 rather than the £1.5 million needed. Cheshire East may like to think that when it comes to local planning all applicants are equal, but some are more equal than others. That’s not how it works. Others will be able to demand similar treatment on appeal, which will be great for the lawyers, but not for Council Taxpayers or the services we depend on.

Update: The plans were approved but, embarrassingly could have been defeated if a Lib Dem from Alsager had voted against (in fairness some extra homes which were not included in the Emerging Local Plan improve the chances of saving some of the Green Belt near him). The independent ward councillor and local residents focused their response on all Macclesfield councillors, including the Tories (except for the Tory Chair of the SPB from Disley who used their casting vote to pass the issue). Thus, it was out of town councillors, predominantly from south Cheshire, who overrode local views on a key issue for the town.

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