Food for thought

Date: Tuesday 5th September 2017

IT is good news that parts of Eden are to be included in a new enterprise zone that will further raise the profile of the district’s food and farming excellence as well as potentially pave the way for increased investment.

Only nine areas of the country have been awarded food enterprise zone status by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which means a reduction in planning red tape within their boundaries. That will make it easier for producers to set up or expand.

However, it seems unlikely that the designation will lead to the creation of many more jobs in Eden. It will certainly make it more attractive to businesses such as farm co-operatives, breweries and creameries to make a move to the district — a number of which are already in operation here — but they are not major employment providers.

Within the Penrith and the Border parliamentary constituency, 92 per cent. of people work for businesses employing less than 10, and more than a quarter of its residents are self-employed. The level of unemployment in the district is historically low, consistently hovering around the 250 mark in recent years, and remains one of the lowest in Britain. Therefore there is no big job pool for employers to choose from, and JobCentre staff suggest that the major issue in the district is a skills shortage.

That is not to underestimate the important role that food and farming play in Eden’s economy and in attracting visitors, but designation as a food enterprise zone is but a small part towards bringing the higher paid jobs that are needed to drive the district forward.