A significant drop in wages in Dover, fusion power in Oxfordshire and regional infrastructure wins

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Unemployment in the SE increased by 14,000 to 149,000 between June and August, the increase of 0.3% took the overall rate to 3.1%.

The South West continued to record the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.9%. The highest rate was 5.8% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 79.52% in the SE. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

SE average property prices increased by 0.8% to £326,232, which took the annual fall in prices to 0.6%, only the London market has performed more poorly. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

Analysis by the BBC has found workers living in coastal communities in Great Britain earn on average £1,600 less per year than those living inland. Since 2010 wages fell by c20% in real terms in Dover, the third biggest drop in the UK.

In seaside towns median wages were £22,104 compared with £23,785 in non-coastal areas.

The ONS’s Personal Well-being (or Happiness) Index has ranked the SE seventh out of the 12 UK ‘regions in terms of improved happiness since the last survey. Overall though, the Northern Irish were still the happiest in the UK with Londoners still the most miserable.

Development

The Government is committing £220m to the conceptual design of a fusion power station. Fusion offers the potential of cleaner electricity by mimicking the processes that power the Sun.

Most of the funding will be deployed at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Science Centre HQ in Oxfordshire, with partners from industry and academia from other parts of the UK collaborating.

Work is due to start at Culham early in 2020 and will create 300 direct jobs with even more in the UK fusion supply chain.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council has also opened a £12m training facility for engineering apprentices at Culham.

The Oxfordshire Advanced Skills centre will train up to 350 apprentices each year in a bid to meet the region’s hi-tech skills shortage which was identified in the Oxfordshire Local Industrial Strategy which was published in July.

The apprentices will be trained in partnership with 20 local employers in disciplines including robotics and cryogenics.

The government, local authorities and Thames Water will contribute to a £270m river Thames flood defence project .The scheme will protect 15,000 homes and 2,400 businesses between Datchet, Berkshire, and through Surrey to Teddington.

In 2014, about 2,000 people were flooded out of their homes in Chertsey, Egham, Sunbury, Staines and Weybridge. The Environment Agency could start work in 2023 with the defences operational by 2027.

The 6,000-home Welborne garden village development in Hampshire has been approved. Welborne is one of the government’s 14 garden villages being built nationwide.

The project will be built on 1,000 acres of mostly farmland north of Fareham and includes a redesign of Junction 10 of the M27, four schools, and a railway station. Work to secure the funding for the motorway junction is still ongoing.

Surrey County Council will move from County Hall in the London borough of Kingston to Midas House in Woking, from mid 2020. Victorian built County Hall found itself outside of Surrey and in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames after boundary changes in 1964.

Transport

The region did well on infrastructure investment this month.  Of the £100m spend announced by the Department of Transport, £25.5m was in the SE.

The £25.5m is for the Stubbington bypass, a new 2 mile single carriageway road which will ease congestion as well as improve access to development sites in Gosport.

This was dwarfed though by a £102m grant from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to turn a section of the A40 into a dual carriageway. Oxfordshire County Council was given the cash to widen the congested road between Witney and a proposed park and ride in Eynsham.

A £8m extension of a bus lane westbound from Duke’s Cut canal bridge to Eynsham is also proposed. The government said the cash would allow 5,050 homes to be built in west Oxfordshire.

Former prime minister and Witney MP David Cameron previously described the A40 as ‘a bit of a foot on the windpipe of the west Oxfordshire economy’ due to its congestion problems. Few who have driven the road would disagree.

Jobs

Marlow headquartered, Jessops, which employs about 500 people across its stores, is in discussions with landlords which are expected to lead to a company voluntary arrangement with creditors that would involve closures and rent cuts.

Dragons Den star, Peter Jones, who owns the camera chain, planned to call in administrators but pushed this out by two weeks whilst negotiations continued. Jones rescued the chain from administrators in 2013 after it collapsed under £81m of debt.

The owners of Chatham Docks have said the estate is unviable as a port beyond 2025, 800 on-site jobs are at risk. The docks are a 75-acre commercial port and manufacturing hub. Peel L&P said it had been in talks with tenants about relocating to alternative sites for some time.

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