Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 27 February

Budget 2023: Jeremy Hunt to create 12 new low-tax ‘investment zones’ across UK

Looks like “the Great South West” loses out yet again – Owl

Jeremy Hunt is set to announce a dozen new low-tax “investment zones” across Britain at this week’s Budget in a bid to boost growth and help “level up” areas outside of London.

Adam Forrest

The chancellor is expected to reveal 12 zones clustered around universities – radically scaling back a scheme introduced by the former prime minister Liz Truss which saw hundreds of councils bid against each other.

The Treasury said each zone would get £80m of support over five years – including generous tax incentives to attract businesses to left-behind parts of the country.

The zones will be clustered around universities and research centres and will be focused on driving growth in key sectors – technology, creative industries, life sciences, manufacturing and the green sector.

Eight mayoralty areas in England – East Midlands, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City, North East, South Yorkshire, Tees Valley, West Midlands and West Yorkshire – have been shortlisted to host investment zones.

Rishi Sunak’s government is working with devolved administrations to establish the final four locations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The chancellor is also set to announce £100m of investment in research and development projects in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, as well providing more funding for levelling up partnerships across England.

Saying he wanted to “supercharge growth” across the country, Mr Hunt said: “True levelling up must be about local wealth creation and local decision-making to unblock obstacles to regeneration.”

Hundreds of councils are thought to have spent £12.5m on bids to be part of a wider, low-tax, low-regulation investment zone scheme scrapped after Ms Truss was kicked out of No 10 in the autumn.

Some 626 bids were submitted in England, with councils estimated to have spent an average of £20,000 to £30,000. Labour said they had been “forced to waste millions of pounds” on a “Hunger Games-style approach”.

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said Mr Hunt’s scheme appeared to be a “marked improvement” on the previous Truss-era policy.

The influential figure said that by avoiding “a bidding-style competition and going straight to combined authorities, the government has avoided repeating previous mistakes”.

The move to boost “budding industries” comes after the government was forced to step in to facilitate the sale of the UK arm of the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank to HSBC to prevent dozens of tech companies being “wiped out”.

Sir Keir Starmer has challenged the chancellor to get the UK “off this path of managed decline” ahead of Wednesday’s Budget.

The Labour leader urged Mr Hunt to match his party’s ambition to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 group of advanced economies.

Criticising the stalling economy under the Tory government, Labour pointed to data showing there are 3,000 fewer high-growth businesses in the UK than there were five years ago.

Sir Keir said: “This week the government has a real opportunity to show they have the ambition and competence to govern. Either they show some proper leadership and get our country off this path of managed decline or stand aside for an incoming Labour government.”

Salaries in Exeter among the lowest in the UK

Exeter has been named as the eighth lowest city in the country when it comes to pay. The average annual salary for someone living in Exeter is £25,533. That’s almost £7,500 lower than the national average of £33,000.

Becky Dickinson

It was recently voted the best place to live in Devon. In a poll of DevonLive readers, the city of Exeter was declared the county’s favourite ‘hometown.’ With a vibrant city centre, a thriving hub of business and industry, and a top university, it’s a city that is often praised for offering that elusive work-life balance. However, when it comes to salaries, Exeter is lagging behind many other parts of the UK.

A new study has revealed the UK cities with the lowest average salaries. And Exeter has been named as the eighth lowest city in the country when it comes to pay. The average annual salary for someone living in Exeter is £25,533. That’s almost £7,500 lower than the national average of £33,000.

Surprisingly, the area with the highest average salary in the UK wasn’t London, but Guildford, in Surrey. Here, people take home an average of £38,040 a year. London came second with an average annual salary of £33,970.

The research also revealed the best places to work based on criteria such as the cost of living index, and average working hours per week. When these factors were taken into account, Edinburgh was crowned the best city in which to live and work. Cardiff took second place and Aberdeen camethird.

When it came to the worst places to live, based on these factors, Nottingham was named the worst city to work in, closely followed Plymouth in second place, and Derby third. The research was carried out by Utility Bidder, using data from the Office of National Statistics. You can see the top 10 UK cities with the lowest average salaries below.

RankCityMedian Annual Pay Gross 2022
3Kingston upon Hull£23,350

So it begins – the East Devon district election season

We have to wait a little longer to hear the first cuckoo of the spring, but pending that a leaflet from the East Devon Conservatives has plopped through our letterboxes. And so it begins – the district election season.

(But not yet through Owl’s letterbox: “The Chestnuts”, middle of the hundred acre wood.)

Leader of East Devon District Council, Paul Arnott writes for this title.

It features a curious star line-up. Simon Jupp, the MP for East Devon is the star, even though he is not the MP for huge chunks of the East Devon District. The East Devon Conservative leader Philip Skinner, who has conducted the majority of his zoom meetings from his study in Bystock Court, Exmouth, is photographed “at his desk in Talaton”.

There is also mention of the supposedly apolitical figure looking after Police matters, Alison Hernandez, described as police and crime “commissionaires”. This took me back to the days of Commissionaires in scarlet braided uniforms outside cinemas. Will she soon appear with epaulets and medals at one of the local police stations where, just before the election, she is “re-opening” front desks to drop-in cases? Readers with even the shortest memories recall that it was under Conservative district, county and parliamentary rule that the front desks were closed in the first place.

The leaflet then makes Mr Jupp the hero for finding funding from the Department for Education to assist the flood-prone Tipton St John Primary School. Yet this battle goes back a decade and was first fought at County by the well-respected Independent Claire Wright, the cause taken on by her successor, also Independent, Jess Bailey (a much-valued colleague at District too).

First, the Conservatives claim they opposed increases in car park charges. This is simply untrue. At the key Overview and Scrutiny (O&S) Committee where the increases were agreed, two venerable but retiring Conservative councillors from Budleigh Salterton happily voted with a proposal which had in fact came from a Labour councillor.

It was only when less principled Tory chums decided they could make mischief with this later on – i.e., now, at election time – that they were ordered to vote another way at Full Council. This was a pity. Both men acknowledged that the Tories had ducked car park charges for more than a decade. They both knew that the cost to residents in key seaside tourist locations of cleaning the streets, emptying the bins and so on, especially in the staycation boom we have seen in the last three years, is immense – way more than inland car parks.

To mitigate that, charges have increased, and to nobody’s surprise the car parks have remained jam-packed. For a tourist family to park all day cannot cost more than £8, and the free market said yes.

To make sure this did not affect local people we offered very reasonable yearly permits, £2 winter parking etc., which have been well-taken up.

Finally, no car park charges will rise for at least a year. We have taken measures to take them out of the political arena where they languished in Conservative chaos for 45 years.

Tiny data centre used to heat public swimming pool – Exmouth

The heat generated by a washing-machine-sized data centre is being used to heat a Devon public swimming pool.

By Zoe Kleinman

Mark Bjornsgaard says his scheme can save public swimming pools thousands of pounds

The computers inside the white box are surrounded by oil to capture the heat – enough to heat the pool to about 30C 60% of the time, saving Exmouth Leisure Centre thousands of pounds.

The data centre is provided to the council-run centre free of charge.

Start-up Deep Green charges clients to use its computing power for artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Founder Mark Bjornsgaard said the company would also refund the leisure centre’s electricity costs for running the “digital boiler” – and seven other England pools had signed up to the scheme.

The concept, developed over five years, is relatively straight forward – the hot oil is pumped into a heat exchanger to warm the water in the pool.

Sean Day, who runs the leisure centre, said he had been expecting its energy bills to rise by £100,000 this year.

“The partnership has really helped us reduce the costs of what has been astronomical over the last 12 months – our energy prices and gas prices have gone through the roof,” he said.

“Looking at different ways of how we can save money as an organisation has been awesome.”

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson said it was good to see pools “embracing innovative solutions”.

Last summer, BBC News revealed 65 swimming pools had closed since 2019, with rising energy costs cited as a significant reason.

‘Huge problem’

Cambridge University professor of engineering and the environment Dr Julian Allwood said: “If it’s a sensible idea and it saves the leisure centre some money, then why not?” adding data centres on the whole used less energy than previously reported.

But large ones can require billions of gallons of water and millions of pounds to keep cool.

Some are even built under water – or in caves or very cold parts of the world.

And in Danish and Swedish cities, huge data centres power thousands of homes.

“Data centres have got a huge problem with heat,” Mr Bjornsgaard said.

“A lot of the money that it costs to run a data centre is is taken up in in getting rid of the heat.

“And so what we’ve done is taken a very small bit of a data centre to where the heat is useful and required.”