Sunday 1 April 2012

The real plight of Bradford

Was there much surprise that finally George Galloway manged to win Bradford? Perhaps there was but there are plenty of reasons for him to have won, even beyond is obvious charisma and charm.

Newsnight put together a very rushed piece on Bradford. However, for me one fact stuck out. it is where the local councillor talks about the failure of the Government to get a new shopping centre built and this as a key reason why Labour lost.

It made me think - how is it a politicians fault that a shopping centre remains derelict?

Firstly there is the wider context of the recession, new shopping centres have been rare since the recession. Westfield has of course opened two huge sites in London at Stratford and Hammersmith - but that reflects a two speed market in the UK - fast in London and stopped elsewhere. Commercial property in 'Secondary' areas is suffering from zero demand, even today.

So when the recession stuck various anchor tenants pulled out and Westfield focused its attentions on areas where it would make a real return better. Now in late 2011 at least a plan for a new, smaller centre has been approved. in the meantime the Council has used state money to create a small park on the spare space. Bradford too has plenty of retail space in its town centre, so the demand for such a huge site must always have been in question, even in the bubbly days of 2006.

But why it is so unappealing to open in Bradford as compared to Stratford? There are 6% of unemployed people claiming benefits, so worse than the UK average but not terrible. However 15% of people are on some kind of benefits and nearly 25% of households are workless. Also at £1725 a month average earnings are low for the region and the UK - no wonder Westfield did not prioritise Bradford. 26% of jobs are Public Sector in the Labour heartland and only 47.6% of jobs are in the private sector - i.e.  benefits or public sector is over 50% of 'work' income in the City.

So on economic grounds, it seems hard to blame the Council for Westfield's delays. But how did the economy deteriorate to such as poor state. Immigration and integration are a key problem - there are schools with a tiny amounts of native speakers. One can understand why unemployment and worklessness is high if so few of the population are able to work in an English speaking environment. Or indeed for companies to want to invest in an area with such a poorly skilled workforce, immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh may well want to be hard working and loyal employees, but with no skills apart from foreign language it is hard to invest in them.

Now of course, in many ways this is the Government's fault, the Labour Government's and in a sense it is they who have paid - albeit through a route they least expected of a more extreme left-wing party coming to take over from them.

There will be solutions to this mess such as to invest in education and slow immigration to give the town a chance to catch-up - yet neither of these will be high of Galloway's divisive agenda.


rwendland said...

According to Wikipedia demolition started 2004 with construction planned to start early 2006. This would have beaten the recession would it not? It seems there were other problems (eg lack of anchor tenants) before the recession, so maybe there was bad planning down to the council. The original development partnership was bought by Westfield Group in December 2004, soon after demolition had started, so maybe this is the root of the problem.

Planning is tough for councils. Near me UNITE Group plc got the council to redesignate industrial land as part student accomodation, part office to maintain employment potential. UNITE then went onto build the student accomodation but left the office parcel of the land derelict - it may have permission but UNITE does not have to build as they more or less promised. Took the council for a ride, but what can a council do in such situations?

CityUnslicker said...

Agree re the planning - but as you say, this is a commercial point, not a Council fault.

I think my main gripe at the moment is that I don't agree with all the hatred directed at many of the problems we have are long-term and economic disaster zones like Bradford do not have magic wand fixes. Galloway and his type will promise them - the media should be carfeul as we could easily get 1930's politics again from here.

Anonymous said...

Working in Bradford the impact to the community is readily apparent.

Right outside the cathedral is a great big hole, 50 foot deep, 200 yards around, with hoarding all around it.

Its akin to Paternoster Square being dug up, boarded up, and left with no plans to fill in the gap for the forseable future.

And then the residents see all the stuff in the press about the Westfield 2012 Olympics and know how much money the company will be making off the back of that???!

Its economics of course. So you can't blame Westfield for that. But is it morally right??

Budgie said...

One problem with Bradford (like other provincial UK cities) is that all the taxes (40% of GDP) are sucked out and sent to London.

As is the way of bureaucrats a lot of this tax money sticks to the apparatchiks' fingers, and never makes it back to the provinces.

Except of course by way of a few grants, formulas, JSAs, etc; for which the recipients are meant to be supremely grateful; and for which the good burghers in London and the SE, primed by MSM propaganda, gnash their collective teeth at how idle and pampered the provinces are.

CityUnslicker said...

Anon, thanks for that. I am not sure where morals come into this. What the Council needs to be doing is recognising the economic failure and doing something about it.
Voting for populists will not sort out these problems, but I can understand the frustration with the 3 current parties failures.

CityUnslicker said...

Budgie, agree and disagree. Of course, high taxes, nationally collected are not good for ANY local areas.

But, worse than you say really, the Central Govt then uses these as bribes for political purposes in local regions - all very pork barrell and sordid.

Having said that, London and SE does provide way more revenues to the nation than get spent on it - if you decntralised you would have still have a bartnett formula style problem to solve.

Anonymous said...


You state yourself that the council has used public funds to put a temporary park in park in place. A park which, it should be noted, is a small sticking plaster over the festering boil of the hole.

But I repeat - The council.

Nothing from Westfield? No contribution? Non contrition?

No-one comes out of this well - the council is culpable for selling off prime land to the god of Mammon.

Westfield for looking for the fast buck ("hey, lets ditch the provinces, there's SERIOUS money to be made in 2012").

And us locals for thinking a new Primark/O2 store/Cafe Nero will make all our lives better and happier.

Budgie said...

CU, the Barnett formula (a convention not law) sets the expenditure for N Ireland, Scotland and Wales vis a vis England, not within England.

Although the "aid" "given" by central government (in London) to any area (including London) within England is complex, the conventions used (as far as I can tell) are not actually based on geographical location (other than the fact that rural areas tend to get more than towns).

As a result London actually has more than average spent on it, the SE less, and Yorkshire (within which Bradfordistan has its being) slightly less than average.

Thus your repetition of the myth that "London and SE" provides "way more revenues" than is spent there is misleading. There is not a higher rate of tax (whether income, VAT, property, business or any other) for "London and the SE" than anywhere else in England. So someone on £25k pays the same tax whether in London or Bradford.

The only way more tax is paid is as result of central government and (big) business sucking revenue into London from the provinces, thereby spending a large chunk of it on (higher than average) salaries, and on services, property etc, in London.

London sucks in 40% of GDP from the provinces. It would be impossible for all of it to be returned because bureaucrats (in London) are paid. Head offices are situated in London, so again the money flow is to London

Budgie said...

Oops, last paragraph should not be there.

CityUnslicker said...

Not quite correct budgie, local SE councils get much lower grants - in part becuase council tax raises so much more with bandings affecting how much is paid due to the house price rises in the SE of the Country.

Don't disagree with your overall thrust that way too much is centralised - just that if you de-centralise today the poor areas will get less as they raise so much less revenues.

Jan said...

I don't think George Galloway won for any other reason than that he's seen as on the side of Muslim people in this country and that he has always been against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was able to mobilise the vote from this section of the community who don't like the pro-war stance of the other major parties. Did you see him surrounded by young men all probably Muslim or of ethnic origin at any rate?

People see him as a person of principle rather than the puppets (muppets?) of the other parties who just spout the party line.

rwendland said...

Jan, according to the counting agents Galloway had a majority in all the wards in Bradford West, not just the heavily muslim ones. They said Galloway got about 85% in the university wards (10,000 students). If that is to be believed, it was more than a muslim affair.

Apparently young people in general voted heavily for Galloway, but for older people maybe it was mainly muslim - hard to tell. If Respect can develop Galloway's young person strategy, maybe they can make inroads elsewhere while the recession is on.

Budgie said...

CU, I am sorry but it is you who is not quite correct. I already said that the SE gets less than average, but London gets more by about the same figure. And Yorkshire (where Bradford is) actually gets slightly less, not more.

As for the higher property taxes due to the higher cost of property, that is no different to more income tax paid because the salaries are higher. That is, richer people pay more tax.

Outflows from London are then falsely interpreted as London and the the SE propping up the provinces. The reality is that it is only some of the exacted tribute returning.

It may suit the smug and whinging SE to perpetuate the myth but it does not make it any more true.

Anonymous said...

Shopping centres? C'mon! Gorgeous George just played the dhimmi card.