The latest statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions show that over the last year the MediaCityUK project has made little if any impact on Salford's unemployment figures.
Hundreds of million of pounds of public money is being poured into the privately owned Peel Holdings development which will be home to the BBC and the University of Salford. Building work has been going on at the site for around two years and Salford Council Leader, John Merry, has provided a breakdown of the 1,521 jobs obtained by Salford residents - Skilled workers 855; Labour 420; Management/supervisory 195; Administration 16; Other 35…
…But latest unemployment figures released by the Commission for the New Economy, of which John Merry is a Board Member, suggest that the jobs have not gone to those most in need. Indeed, the figures suggest that the majority of those who have worked on MediaCityUK were either already in jobs or that the jobs have been extremely short term. There is no other way that we can explain how Salford has managed to be one of the worst performing areas for employment in Greater Manchester.
Analysts would expect 1500 jobs coming into the city to make Salford's unemployment figures buck the Greater Manchester trend. But on every `Unemployment Monitor' on New Economy's website, it appears to be the other way around (click here for full reports).
From July 2009 to July 2010 the number of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants across Greater Manchester fell by 6.3%. Salford's fell by a mere 0.1%, making it the second worst performing area after Manchester. Salford currently has two wards out of the top ten in Greater Manchester for the highest rate of JSA claimants – Langworthy with 8.8% (up 2% over the year) and Broughton with 8.7% (up 5.5% over the year), double the Greater Manchester average.
The Job Seekers Allowance is just one measure of unemployment rates, and on the New Economy website it also monitors total unemployment benefit claims which it states is "a more accurate measure of unemployment". It reports on quarterly figures and its latest statistics are for the period to November 2009, when building work on MediaCityUK was at its peak.
In these months, Salford had the second highest claimant rate in Greater Manchester with 22.8% and the second highest ward rate in Langworthy, at a shocking 42.4%. Salford was also the only area in Greater Manchester to experience a rise in quarterly claimant rates. Cadishead was the worst ward in Greater Manchester with claimant numbers rising almost 20% between November 2008 and November 2009.
Over that year, the New Economy website states, "the greatest increases in the number of JSA claimants were seen in Rochdale (59.8%) and Salford (58.1%), significantly higher than the rise across Great Britain (48.2%). Cadishead in Salford experienced the largest annual rise in JSA claimant numbers (125.0%). The top ten wards by largest annual increase included three other Salford wards – Worsley and Boothstown, Eccles and Irlam".
Meanwhile, between July 2009 and July 2010, Salford was the only area in Greater Manchester to show a fall in JobCentre Plus (JCP) notified vacancies. In July this year there were 22 jobs for every 100 claimants, almost 5 people chasing one job. In Langworthy, these JCP notified vacancies fell by 65% during the year November 2008 to November 2009 with just 0.02 jobs for every claimant.
During the same period, every single ward in Salford experienced a rise in unemployment claimants. Yet a few hundred MediaCityUK jobs in some of the areas surrounding the site, like Broughton, Langworthy, Pendleton or Ordsall would have reversed the figures significantly. The fact that they haven't suggests that a large proportion of the 1,521 Salford residents who have worked on MediaCityUK were either already being employed by the companies working on site or that the nature of the work was very short term.
That employment rates in Salford are doing so badly in comparison with other Greater Manchester areas over the period that MediaCityUK has been constructed, we believe, shows that the project is having virtually no impact on unemployment and hence, poverty rates, in the city. Figures produced by Salford Council show that 60% of the city's children are currently living in poverty (click here for more details).
"I think it is important to explain to you that almost since the moment the deal between Peel and the BBC was signed, council officers, staff at the Urban Regeneration Company and North West Development Agency have worked in partnership to develop and deliver a programme that takes advantage of every opportunity that MediaCity UK offers to develop the local economy, the digital and media sector in this region and the life chances of local residents" said John Merry in a statement earlier this year "That is to say we are in no way relying on trickle down benefits and we are taking very pro active and deliberate steps to make sure the economic and social benefits are secured.
"In relation to construction opportunities" he explained "we have been clear that it was very important to capture all opportunities available for local people and firms, albeit in the teeth of a global recession when many people were falling out of jobs in construction in the region. We have enjoyed a remarkably strong relationship with Bovis Lend Lease the main contractor on the site, who have a passion for securing local benefits from their investment which they manage rigorously through their sub contractor chain. We have gone as far as creating a joint team, based at the MediaCity UK site offices where Bovis project managers have worked side by side with staff from our local skills and work providers to identify opportunities and work with sub contractors to match people with opportunities.
"A key aspect of the local labour story on site is the massive success we have achieved in ensuring Salford contractors were well equipped to compete for contracts achieved through a range of measures including meet the buyer events and direct support work from Bovis to ensure they met requirements" he added "In the end, Salford firms on site means Salford people on site and the £95m awarded to Salford firms speaks for itself about the success of this work. This dwarfs the level of investment the City Council has put in to MediaCity, and I believe, even at this very early stage, fully justifies the position this council has taken in seeking to secure such a prestigious development for Salford."
For further details of Salford Council's involvement with MediaCityUK click here
Photo by Steven Speed shows ex Labour minister Peter Mandelson on his visit to MediaCityUK before the General Election. Photographed with him are Hazel Blears, John Merry, John Whittaker (Peel Holdings), Bryan Gray (Peel Media), Robert Hough (NWDA) plus three apprentices who had got jobs on the site. When we interviewed them, only one lived in Salford. Further details on the Mandelson visit here