The State of Britain

Staff Writer

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Jaywick in the headlines again, the time for regional policy innovation and the ‘Boris Bridge’ to the Emerald Isle

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The effectiveness of regional policy was in the spotlight following the Government’s publication of its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, again made the headlines and was still the most deprived area of the UK. Geographically though Jaywick was an outlier, the town was followed by nine deprived areas of the North West, most noticeably Blackpool, but then, and despite the wealth passing through it, Anfield.

In terms of local authorities, 49% of Middleborough and Liverpool had deprived areas, Knowsley, Hull and Manchester were next. The first authority from the ‘southern’ half of the country was Great Yarmouth at 25th. What was most significant though, was that in terms of performance since 2015, nine of the top ten areas that have seen deprivation accelerate the fastest in the UK were in the north. Oldham topped the list and saw deprivation increase by c8%, only Worcester appeared to prevent a northern clean sweep. Eight of the ten most improved areas were in London, with Copeland the only northern authority to appear.

In fairness, there was a northern bias to the 100 English towns targeted by the government’s new £3.6bn Towns Fund but this money is unlikely to shift the dial much. Time to try something different? Like him or loath him, Donald Trump’s Opportunity Zones appear to be making a difference in the American Rust Belt. Investors defer or reduce capital gains if funds are invested in projects in deprived areas of the US, resulting in the profits on those projects becoming tax free after a decade. Why not pilot it in Oldham, and then let the Treasury run its slide rule over the numbers.

The government announced the twelve renewable energy projects that had won ‘contracts for difference’ auctions, which guarantee energy prices for suppliers. The new projects will power more than 7m homes for as low as a startling £39.65 per megawatt hour. This is 30% below the £57.50 auction price achieved in 2017 and is below the £50 per megawatt hour that wholesale electricity prices have hovered around this year. These figures suggest no taxpayer subsidy is needed and evidences that offshore wind in particular, is a UK success story that is benefiting deprived eastern coastal towns and cities.

On nuclear, EDF says the cost to complete the Hinkley Point C plant is now estimated to be between £21.5bn and £22.5bn – an increase of £1.9bn to £2.9bn compared to the previous estimate. These cost overruns will not hit UK consumers because the price agreed for the electricity it will produce was £92.50 per megawatt hour (when the wholesale market price was around £40) reflecting EDF’s commitment to absorb any cost increases. Not all of the additional spend will be local, but some will, and few Somerset businesses will complain.

Construction work continues while the HS2 review is ongoing but if HS2 does goes ahead, the first phase between London and Birmingham will be delayed by up to five years, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed. That section of the line was due to open at the end of 2026, but it could now be between 2028 and 2031 before the first trains run on the route. HS2’s total cost has risen from £62bn to between £81bn and £88bn.

Channel 4 News has seen documents showing that the Treasury and Department for Transport have been asked for advice on the possible costs and risks of a 20 mile bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland. Better infrastructure in Galloway suggests a bridge from Portpatrick to Larne is the preferable route at a cost of c£15-£20bn. Where or who will foot the bill for this project is unclear, although the £80bn HS2 project is under review. Every Prime Minister wants a legacy.

The Stats
The ONS said the dominant services sector helped the economy grew 0.3% in July, which meant growth was flat over the quarter, an improvement on the 0.2% contraction seen in April-to-June. On manufacturing, the figures suggest that firms are beginning to restart stockpiling in anticipation of the possibility of no-deal Brexit in October.

The labour figures remained good. The ONS said the UK employment rate was the joint-highest on record since comparable records began in 1971 at 76.1% , and higher than a year earlier (75.5%). The largest increase in employees by industry was in the professional, scientific and technical industry, up 3.3%. The largest decrease by industry was in the information and communication industry, down 1.6%. The UK unemployment rate between May to July was estimated at 3.8%; lower than a year earlier (4.0%) and unchanged on the quarter. If bonuses are included, the ONS estimated that the annual growth in average weekly earnings for employees increased to 4% in the three months to July, from 3.8% in the three months to June, the biggest rise since the mid-2008. In real terms, annual growth in total pay was 2.1%. Another ONS survey into flexible working revealed 42% of public sector workers worked flexibly compared with 21% of private sector workers.

Inflation fell to 1.7% from 2.1% in August driven by a 5% decrease in games, toys and hobbies, especially computer games, plus clothing prices increased by 1.8% compared with a 3.1% rise a year ago. Culture (theatre tickets etc) saw a slower rise of 0.2% in July and August compared with 2.9% a year ago. The cost of bread went up though, along with breakfast cereal and meat.

The annual growth in house prices slowed to its lowest rate since September 2012, with four of the nine English regions seeing prices falling over the year. Average house prices increased by 0.7% in the year to July 2019, down from 1.4% in June 2019, seven years ago the rate was 0.4%.

Whilst the Bank of England held interest rates at 0.75%, on the Continent, the European Central Bank unveiled fresh stimulus measures. The deposit facility rate, paid by banks on their reserves at the ECB, was already negative, but was cut again from -0.4% to -0.5%. The ECB also said it was re-starting quantitative easing and will buy €20bn of debt a month from 1 November.

GDP growth in the euro area and the EU28 rose by 0.2% during the second quarter of 2019 compared with the previous quarter, according to Eurostat. In the first quarter of 2019, GDP had grown by 0.4% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU28. Over the year key European economies have been sluggish; Germany has grown by 0.4% and France by 1.4% with Italy contracting by 0.1%.

The euro area (EA19) unemployment rate was 7.4% in August 2019, down from 7.5% in July 2019 and from 8.0% in August 2018. This is the lowest rate recorded in the euro area since May 2008. The EU28 unemployment rate was 6.2% in August 2019, down from 6.3% in July 2019 and from 6.7% in August 2018.

The euro area inflation rate was 1.0% in August 2019, the same as in July. A year earlier, the rate was 2.1%. European Union annual inflation was 1.4% in August 2019; also the same as in to July, a year earlier the rate was 2.2%.

A refreshed Midland’s Engine strategy promised by the autumn and new regional GDP figures from the ONS ranks the East Midlands first

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by nine areas of the North West as the most deprived in England, part of Gainsborough is the first EM entry ranked 24th. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

In terms of local authorities, 31% of Nottingham was classified as deprived which ranked the city 15th worst in the UK but no other EM local authority made the top 32. In terms of performance since 2015, one area of the EM has seen deprivation accelerate the fastest in the UK. Mansfield was ranked fourth and saw deprivation increase by c6%.

Mansfield is one of the EM towns invited to apply for regeneration funding as part of the £3.6bn Towns Fund which is targeted at 100 English towns. Towns must submit economic growth plans with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. The Midlands were also awarded £21.1m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Leicester, Newark and Grantham some of the half dozen or so EM towns that will benefit.

During a tour of Bombardier in Derby, Midlands Minister Robert Jenrick, announced the government’s commitment to further devolution deals across the region. He also undertook to deliver a new Midlands Engine Strategy this autumn which will be written in partnership with the region.

Transport
Construction work continues while the HS2 review is ongoing but if HS2 does goes ahead, the first phase between London and Birmingham will be delayed by up to five years, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed. That section of the line was due to open at the end of 2026, but it could now be between 2028 and 2031 before the first trains run on the route. Undeterred, regional transport body Midlands Connect, has submitted proposals to the Department for Transport (DfT) for a 33-minute service between Birmingham and Nottingham and a 90-minute connection from Leeds and Bedford via Leicester. Trains between Birmingham and Nottingham currently take c70 minutes, whilst Leeds and Leicester takes two hours plus. The DfT said an independent review will consider Midlands Connect’s submission; HS2’s total cost has risen from £62bn to between £81bn and £88bn.

In the air, services from the East Midlands to Brussels have restarted after the route was lost when Flybmi went into administration. Loganair will operate the route six days a week after Burnaston-based Toyota offered assurances it would use it regularly. Loganair will also fly to and from Inverness.

Development
A Jaguar Land Rover distribution centre in Appleby Magna will go ahead on a 238-acre site at junction 11 of the M42. The new facility will service 80 countries, create 1,200 immediate jobs with 3,000 forecast by 2030. JLR said it would consolidate work of 10 sites, cut their vehicle movements, and improve efficiency. Work on the site could start in 2020 and be completed in 2023. When fully operational, developers say the project will contribute an additional £139m pa to the region.

Jobs
Car dealer Pendragon is to cut c300 jobs and close more than 20 showrooms. The firm confirmed it will shut nearly two thirds of the Car Store chain, with just 12 of its 34 branches surviving. The firm also trades under the Evans Halshaw and Stratstone brands and is one of Nottinghamshire’s largest companies.

A labelling error which resulted in a firm recalling several brands and flavours of popcorn because they may have contained milk, led to significant losses which has consequently led to its administration. Nottinghamshire-based Thomas Tucker supplied snacks and sweets to cinemas and supermarkets across the UK. The underlying cause was disputed but the company agreed a voluntary product recall following an investigation by the Food Standards Agency. The administrator hopes to sell the firm as a going concern but of the 116 headcount, 64 staff have so far lost their jobs.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for the East Midlands, the eight other English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the EM economy grew by 3.4%. This ranked the EM top out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ At the bottom of the league the South West economy declined by 1.1%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the professional, scientific and technical industry grew by 6.5% and made the largest positive contribution to growth but education fell by 7.9% and made the largest negative contribution. Each of the three main sectors (production, construction and services) all grew but construction was the main driver with production and services virtually at a standstill. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked the EM ninth with growth of 1.2%, which suggests the March ‘Brexit’ slowdown has hit the region harder relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the EM increased by 10,000 to 115,000 between May and July, the uplift of 0.3% took the overall rate to 4.6%. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 76.9% in the EM. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

EM average property prices increased by 0.3% to £194,798, which took annual growth to 1.9%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

Offshore wind continues to benefit the Yorkshire coast and Yorkshire and the Humber house prices rise the fastest in England

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. After Jaywick, eight areas of Blackpool are the most deprived in England with an area of Hull the most deprived part of Yorkshire and The Humber (ranked 21st). The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

In terms of local authorities, 45% of Hull was deemed to be deprived, ranking it fourth in England, Bradford was ranked 11th, North East Lincolnshire 17th, and Rochdale and Sheffield also made the top thirty. There was little change in performance since 2015, with most areas marginally improving on their previous rankings. The least deprived area of England is an area near Great Missenden in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire, few areas outside the South East were near the end of the table, except the Burn Bridge area of Harrogate, which was second bottom.

The MHCLG found concentrations of deprivation in a number of coastal towns, many of which are in Yorkshire and The Humber, but there was no new money for the region in the latest tranche from the Coastal Communities Fund. Y&H and the North East were, however, awarded £17.2m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Scarborough, Selby and Barnsley some of the half dozen or so Y&H towns that will benefit.

Delegates who attended the Convention of the North at the ‘Magnum Centre’ in Rotherham were first treated to Latin ice cream jokes before the PM outlined plans to give Northern Mayors and combined authorities more control over setting local train fares, timetables and budgets. He cited his experience as Mayor of London as evidence of how transport in London improved when devolved from central government. At county level, he also floated the idea that councils or community partnerships could take control of branch lines and their stations.

Transport
It is difficult to see how rail reforms could make services much worse, after a report by Transport for the North found Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) services worse than they were a year ago when they were disrupted by timetabling chaos. More services were either late or cancelled in July and August than the previous year the report found, with the rail firms pointing to weather events such as flooding and extreme heat as mitigating factors. The percentage of TPE trains running on time dropped to 70.9% between 21 July and 17 August from 75.7% in the same period last year, an average of 42 trains were cancelled daily, representing 12.9% of services. At Northern, punctuality fell to 79.4% from 82.2% and an average of 139 trains were cancelled each day, representing 5.3% of services. Another report by passenger watchdog Transport Focus (based on data from the Office of Rail and Road) has found Hull Trains had the worst record for punctuality in the UK during the 12 months to the end of June. Hull Trains were late 36.8% of the time, followed by TPE at 38.7%. The latest National Rail Passenger Survey of the 25 UK rail companies ranked Northern 23rd and TPE 18th but overall satisfaction with Hull Trains was better, and it was placed joint third.

Development
The government has announced that twelve renewable energy projects have won ‘contracts for difference’ auctions, which guarantee energy prices for suppliers. Offshore wind projects at Dogger Bank, off the Yorkshire coast, will generate five gigawatts of capacity (enough electricity for 4.5m UK homes) at prices ranging from £39.65 to £41.61 per megawatt hour. This is 30% below the £57.50 auction price achieved in 2017 and is below the £50 per megawatt hour that wholesale electricity prices have hovered around this year. These figures suggest no taxpayer subsidy is needed and evidences offshore wind as a UK success story. Work is expected to start in January 2020 at Dogger Bank and the first power could be produced in 2023. The project is located 80 miles off the coast and consists of three sites. The electricity will come ashore at sites in Teesside and Cottingham in East Yorkshire. Energy firm SSE and its Norwegian partner Equinor will invest about £9bn in the project. The three sites will have more than 630 turbines standing 190m high, each built by Siemens in Hull. In February, the first power was produced by the Hornsea One development and two other adjacent wind farms are also under development off the Yorkshire coast.

A planned £403m bond sale by North Yorkshire potash miner Sirius Minerals has been cancelled. The firm will now undertake a six-month review of four different financing options for the project near Whitby. The project would create the world’s largest mine for polyhalite, a naturally occurring fertiliser which is used in agriculture. The mine is due to open in 2021 and create more than 1,000 jobs. Part of the project includes a 23-mile tunnel to transport minerals to a processing plant near the former Redcar steelworks. A request for an intervention with taxpayers’ money was declined by the government.

Jobs
The Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank is to close its Leeds operating centre. The group, which is due to complete its integration with Virgin Money shortly, currently has a headcount of about 9,500 of which c1,500 jobs will go by the end of 2021. Jobs will disappear from the brand and marketing and retail distribution divisions. Yorkshire Bank’s Merrion Way office in Leeds is expected to close by September 2021, with the group moving its functional corporate office to another site in the city. Overall, most of the 330 jobs from the Leeds, Norwich and Edinburgh operations will be redeployed, although there will be some redundancies.

In Hull, Ideal Standard is planning to close its factory with the loss of 85 jobs. The company intends to move production of its baths to a factory in Egypt. Some functions such as customer service will remain in the city.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for Yorkshire and The Humber and the other eight English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the Yorkshire and The Humber economy grew by 0.6%. This ranked Y&H ninth out of the twelve UK regions. The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4% whilst at the bottom the South West economy contracted by 1.1%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the construction and wholesale/retail trade industries grew by 1.8% and 2.9% respectively and made the largest positive contributions to growth but the financial and insurance industry fell by 3.7% and was a major drag on the economy. Overall, the production and services sectors made no contribution to growth with the main driver at sector level being construction. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked Y&H second with growth of 1.7%, which suggests the region has had a better 2019 so far relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in Y&H fell by 18,000 to 116,000 between May and July, a significant drop of 0.6% to 4.3%. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 74.0% in Y&H. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

Y&H average property prices increased by 1.9% to £167,181, which took annual growth to 3.2% which was the most in England. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

Middlesbrough again the most deprived authority in England and the North East retains the highest unemployment rate in the UK despite a significant improvement

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each. The Thorntree area of Middlesbrough was the first area in the NE to be featured and was ranked 46th.

In terms of local authorities, 49% of Middlesbrough was ranked as deprived, the worst in England, and Hartlepool was ranked tenth with 36%, both authorities had the same rankings in 2015. Gateshead and Northumberland were both in the top ten more deprived areas relative to 2015 and Newcastle, Redcar /Cleveland and South Tyneside all moved up the deprivation rankings.

Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar are some of the NE towns invited to apply for regeneration funding as part of the £3.6bn Towns Fund which is targeted at 100 English towns. Towns must submit economic growth plans with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.

The Ministry found concentrations of deprivation in a number of coastal towns, many of which are in the North East, but there was no new money for the region in the latest tranche from the Coastal Communities Fund. The North East and Yorkshire were, however, awarded £17.2m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Hexham, North Shields and Middlesbrough benefiting.

Delegates who attended the Convention of the North at the ‘Magnum Centre’ in Rotherham were first treated to Latin ice cream jokes before the PM outlined plans to give Northern Mayors and combined authorities more control over setting local train fares, timetables and budgets. He cited his experience as Mayor of London as evidence of how transport in London improved when devolved from central government. At county level, he also floated the idea that councils or community partnerships could take control of branch lines and their stations.

Transport
It is difficult to see how rail reforms could make services much worse, after a report by Transport for the North found Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) services worse than they were a year ago when they were disrupted by timetabling chaos. More services were either late or cancelled in July and August than the previous year the report found, with the rail firms pointing to weather events such as flooding and extreme heat as mitigating factors. The percentage of TPE trains running on time dropped to 70.9% between 21 July and 17 August from 75.7% in the same period last year, an average of 42 trains were cancelled daily, representing 12.9% of services. At Northern, punctuality fell to 79.4% from 82.2% and an average of 139 trains were cancelled each day, representing 5.3% of services. The latest National Rail Passenger Survey of the 25 UK rail companies ranked Northern 23rd and TPE 18th. Last month, popular Virgin Trains, which was ranked second with a 91% satisfaction rating by passengers, lost its franchise to TPE’s parent.

Development
Also on the trains, Newton Aycliffe based Japanese train builder Hitachi, has failed to win an order to supply 42 new trains for the Tyne and Wear metro. Hitachi was in competition with Spanish firm CAF and Swiss train manufacturer Stadler for the £500m contract, the winner will be announced in January. Hitachi’s County Durham plant employs 700 people and built the East Coast Mainline’s new Azuma trains. Recently it won a £400m order for new Midland main line carriages but failed to secure a £1.5bn London Underground contract. CAF has a factory in Newport and Stadler has one in Liverpool.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for the North East and the other eight English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the North East economy grew by 0.9%. This ranked the North East eighth out of the twelve UK regions. The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4% whilst at the bottom the South West economy contracted by 1.1%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the information/communication and construction industries grew by 6.8% and 3.2% respectively and made the largest positive contributions to North East growth. The transportation and storage industry experienced negative growth of 5.8% and was the largest drag on the region’s economy. Within the North East, the services sector contributed positively to GDP growth but output in the production sector contracted. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked the North East ninth with growth of 1.3%.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the North East fell by 9,000 to 63,000 between May and July, a significant drop of 0.7% to 5.0%. This, however, was still the highest unemployment rate in the country. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 71.1% in the North East. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

Last month, North East average property prices increased the most in the UK by 1.7%, this was all reversed this month, with prices dropping by 2.1% to £127,466. Annually prices have dropped by 2.9%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

Space flight a step closer in Cornwall, market failure in Gloucester and the ONS’s first cut at regional GDP unwelcome news in the South West

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by nine areas of the North West as the most deprived in England, the Hartcliffe area of Bristol is the first SW entry ranked at 91st. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each. In terms of local authorities, 17% of Plymouth was classified as deprived which ranked the city the 50th worst in the UK.

The MHCLG found concentrations of deprivation in a number of coastal towns, many of which are in the South West, and there was new money for the region in the latest tranche of the Coastal Communities Fund, with Poole/Bournemouth and Lydney Harbour winners. The Dorset project will create an environmental innovation hub and will feature eco-accommodation and leisure facilities and improved public lighting. The hub will focus on reducing single-use plastics through a programme of research and public recycling initiatives. The Lydney project will create transport routes into the harbour and develop the area as a recreation and tourism destination.

Also Penzance, St Ives and Torquay were some of the SW towns invited to apply for regeneration funding as part of the £3.6bn Towns Fund which is targeted at 100 English towns. Towns must submit economic growth plans with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. The South West was also awarded £13.7m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Poole again benefiting, along with Redruth, Plymouth and another half dozen or so regional towns.

Development
Spaceport Cornwall – a horizontal launch site at Newquay airport from which satellites will be sent into orbit – should be underpinned with £12m from Cornwall Council, after the funding was approved by the council’s cabinet. The £12m is part of an investment package which also includes £7.85m from the UK Space Agency and £2.5m from Virgin Orbit. The Virgin Orbit jet, a modified Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl, will carry satellite launchers which are released before accelerating and discharging the satellite into space. The Spaceport could also be used to send fee-paying passengers on sub-orbital flights.

A proposed £140m development at Bristol’s old fire station which includes office space, 231 new rental homes and more than 60 affordable flats has been recommended by planners. Two residential tower blocks (16-storey and 10-storey) and an eight-storey building with office space, form the core of the project.

There is clear market failure in Gloucester, where the 15th Century Fleece Hotel in Westgate Street has been empty since 2002. Gloucester City Council will invest in the hotel with a private developer and redevelop it into a boutique hotel and restaurants. The Fleece first opened in 1497 to house pilgrims visiting the tomb of King Edward II.

Redeveloping three Victorian Spa buildings into a heritage centre near the Roman Baths and revealing previously unseen areas of the Roman complex, such as a Roman laconicum and a possible Roman exercise yard, will attract 100,000 visitors a year according to Bath and North East Somerset council’s heritage team. The project has secured £3.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and if approved will open in 2020.

Jobs
Morrisons is proposing to close its Regent Circus store in Swindon as part of a nationwide performance review which has recommended four UK branches for closure. The store only opened in October 2014 as part of a new leisure and retail complex designed to regenerate the site of a derelict former college building, headcount is 113.

In Somerset, the National Animal Welfare Trust’s Heaven’s Gate Farm, near Langport, faces closure putting 31 jobs at risk. The charity also operates rescue and re-homing centres for domestic pets across Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Cornwall, Essex, and Hertfordshire.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for the South West, the eight other English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the SW economy declined by 1.1%. This ranked the region bottom of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the education sector grew by 6.4%, while the administrative and support services industries grew by 3.0% and made the largest positive contributions to growth, however, the construction industry fell by 2.8% and financial industries fell by 3.4% and were the largest negative contributors in the region. Overall, the services sector was the only sector-level positive contributor to GDP growth, both the production and construction sectors contracted. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked the SW third with growth of 1.9%, which suggests the region has had a better 2019 so far relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed that unemployment in the SW decreased by 10,000 to 68,000 between May and July; the drop of 0.3% took the overall rate to 2.4% which was the best in the UK. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8%. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

SW average property prices increased by 1.2% to £258,602, which took annual growth to 0.7%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, also an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

A remarkable reduction in deprivation in Tower Hamlets and London is not the ‘dark star’ of the UK economy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by nine areas of the North West as the most deprived in England, Haringey is the first London entry ranked 546th. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

In terms of local authorities, 11% of Hackney was classified as deprived which ranked the borough 78th worst in the UK narrowly beating Haringey which was 84th. The seven areas of the UK which recorded the fastest falls in deprivation in the UK since 2015 were all in London. Hackney, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Haringey, Islington and Westminster all recorded drops in deprivation of between 6% and 12% but Tower Hamlets topped the table with a remarkable 22% drop. The least deprived area of England is an area near Great Missenden in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire.

Given the relative wealth of the capital it is no surprise that London has been excluded from the £3.6bn Towns Fund recently announced by the Government which is targeted at regenerating 100 English towns. However, London and the South East were awarded £14.3m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Tower Hamlets, Tottenham and Croyden benefiting.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has echoed calls from northern UK mayors and called for greater devolution to the UK’s cities and regions. Giving London greater powers over housing, transport and infrastructure would boost economic growth across the capital, he said. The Mayor made the statement as he launched a new report highlighting London’s contribution to the UK economy. The report, ‘London and the UK, A Declaration of Interdependence’ challenges the assumption that London receives more than its share of funding. Former Scottish First Minster, Alex Salmond, once dubbed London as the ‘dark star’ of the British economy, this narrative which pits London against the rest of the country is rebutted in Khan’s report, which outlines the economic case for how success for the capital means success for the UK as a whole. The statement is difficult to argue with, in its latest estimate of regional public spending and regional tax revenues in 2018, the ONS concluded that only three regions ran a surplus and contributed c£60bn to the Treasury, of this London’s £34.3bn was by far the largest.

Khan also published an interim report setting out the evidence base for his Local Industrial Strategy following the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper, which sets out a long-term plan to boost UK productivity. Whilst other parts of the UK would take half of London’s economic growth, the report highlights how growth in productivity in London has stalled since the financial crisis in 2008, leaving significant differences in performance between sectors and areas of the capital.

Given the gradual switch from retailing to leisure on the UK’s high streets, the Mayor’s announcement that Walthamstow High Street has been chosen to be London’s first Night Time Enterprise Zone is a welcome innovation. The pilot, which runs from October to January 2020, will see Waltham Forest Council assist new evening enterprises, create a small fund for existing local businesses to help cover the costs required to host evening activities and encourage local retailers to extend their opening times. It remains to be seen if giving shops and public buildings longer opening hours between 6pm and 6am will prevent the decline of high street retail.

Transport
Construction work continues while the HS2 review is ongoing but if HS2 does goes ahead, the first phase between London and Birmingham will be delayed by up to five years, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed. That section of the line was due to open at the end of 2026, but it could now be between 2028 and 2031 before the first trains run on the route. HS2’s total cost has risen from £62bn to between £81bn and £88bn.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for London, the eight other English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the capital’s economy grew by 2.3%. This ranked the city fourth of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4% whilst at the bottom the South West economy declined by 1.1%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the wholesale and retail trade industry grew by 5.2% and made the largest positive contribution to growth but the financial and insurance industry fell by 4.4% and was a major negative contributor. Overall, the production and services sectors both made positive contributions to GDP but output in the construction sector contracted. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked London first with growth of 2.3%, which suggests the capital’s economy has strengthened this year relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in London increased by 16,000 to 225,000 between May and July, the uplift of 0.4% took the overall rate to 4.6%, the joint second highest rate in the UK. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 74.3% in London. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

London’s average property price increased by 1.0% to £477,813, which meant annually prices had fallen by 1.4%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

South East oil projects go ahead and the Chiltern Hills the least deprived area of England

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by nine areas of the North West as the most deprived in England, Sheerness is the first South East entry ranked 48th. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

In terms of local authorities, 30% of Hastings was classified as deprived which ranked the town 17th worst in the UK. In Gravesham, deprivation fell by c6%, the eighth fastest fall in the UK, and was the regional star performer. The least deprived area of England is an area near Great Missenden in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire.

The MHCLG found concentrations of deprivation in a number of coastal towns, some of which are in the South East, and there was new money for the region in the latest tranche from the Coastal Communities Fund, with Dover a winner. The £2.4m project ‘Dover Soul’, will upgrade the town’s Market Square and Old Town with a view to increasing the number of visitors and re-establishing the area as a leisure destination.

Also Hastings, Margate and Newhaven are some of the SE towns invited to apply for regeneration funding as part of the £3.6bn Towns Fund which is targeted at 100 English towns. Towns must submit economic growth plans with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. The South East and London were also awarded £14.3m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Hastings again benefiting, along with Chatham and Ramsgate.

Development
Esso is to build a hydrogen generating plant, an automotive diesel oil production facility and diesel storage tank at Fawley, near Southampton, after New Forest District Council planning committee agreed its application. The £800m project will expand production, reduce diesel imports, create 1,000 construction jobs and safeguard the existing 2,000 jobs on site. The refinery, on Southampton Water, covers an area of more than 1,000 hectares and provides 20% of the UK’s refinery capacity.

Also in Southampton, plans for a £150m redevelopment of a derelict Toys R Us site have been outlined by the city council. The proposals include an office block, 275 flats, restaurants and shops at the Western Esplanade. A new promenade linking Southampton Central train station to the West Quay shopping centre is also planned. The first £75m phase will encompass a 70,000 sq ft office building as well as new restaurants, cafes, shops and a leisure attraction. More homes will be built as part of the second stage before a further development containing a hotel or office space could be constructed as part of the final phase. The council plans to borrow £27m to build the phase one office block.

Surrey County Council has approved a 25-year drilling plan from UK Oil and Gas Investments which aims to operate four oil wells at the Horse Hill site, about two miles from Gatwick Airport. The site covers about 2 hectares of former farmland near Horley. The company was also granted permission for a water re-injection well which aids oil recovery. The company had previously claimed to be able to meet 10- 30% of the UK’s oil demands from the project.

Jobs
Arjowiggins paper mill in Aberdeen has been sold, months after administrators said negotiations had ended without a sale, if the firm had folded then 82 jobs in Chartham and 27 jobs in Basingstoke were threatened. The deal has been supported with £7m of funding from Scottish Enterprise.

Transport
The saga over South Western Railway’s £45m upgrade of its 30-year-old Class 442 trains known as ‘plastic pigs’ continues. The Class 442s were originally due to be brought back into service in December 2018 after refurbishment in Bournemouth and Eastleigh. The delayed reintroduction was aborted in May due to a safety problem with the door locks. The first trains came into service in June but new motors to improve reliability have yet to be fitted. Now they are suspected of accidentally turning signals yellow or red as they pass through Earlsfield station in south west London; you couldn’t make it up.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for the South East of England, the eight other English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the South East economy grew by 2.8%. This ranked the region third of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4% whilst at the bottom the South West economy declined by 1.1%.. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the education industry grew by 7.8% and made the largest positive contribution to growth but construction fell by 2.2% and public administration and defence fell by 1.6%. These made the largest negative contributions to growth in the region. Overall, the services sector was the main driver of GDP whereas production was flat. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked the South East seventh with growth of 1.4%, which suggests the region’s economy has weakened this year relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the South East decreased by 8,000 to 135,000 between May and July, the drop of 0.2% took the overall rate down to 2.8%, the second lowest rate in the UK. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 79.8% in the South East. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

South East average property prices fell by 0.7% to £320,454, which meant annually prices had fallen by 2.0%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

Jaywick wins an unwelcome accolade again and new GDP figures flag problems in the region’s economy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by nine areas of the North West as the most deprived in England, Clacton itself was ranked 15th with part of Lowestoft the next area in the region ranked at 25th. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each. In terms of local authorities, 25% of Great Yarmouth was classified as deprived which ranked the town 25th worst in the UK, Norwich was next in the region, it was ranked 41st with 20% of the city deemed to be deprived.

The MHCLG found concentrations of deprivation in a number of coastal towns, many of which are in the East of England, and there was new money for the region in the latest tranche from the Coastal Communities Fund, with Southwold a winner. Also Great Yarmouth, Norwich and Lowestoft are some of the SW towns invited to apply for regeneration funding as part of the £3.6bn Towns Fund which is targeted at 100 English towns. Towns must submit economic growth plans with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. The East was also awarded £7m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft again benefiting, along with another half dozen or so regional towns.

Transport
The last National Rail Passenger Survey of the 25 UK rail companies ranked Greater Anglia 22nd with an 80% passenger approval rating. Other intercity service providers like Virgin Trains, had a 91% satisfaction rating by passengers and was ranked second. Greater Anglia’s £1.4bn investment in a new fleet of trains should, therefore, improve its ranking. The firm is the first UK rail operator to introduce an entirely new set of trains. The new fleet includes 38 bi-mode trains, able to run on diesel or electric power, which will run in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, and 20 electric trains to serve the Norwich-London and Stansted Express services. By the end of next year the firm expects to have replaced all 169 trains in its fleet. The fleet will be maintained at the Norwich Crown Point depot, which has itself had a £40m upgrade.

Development
A £22m project from Walcott to Bacton in Norfolk, that has created three miles of new beaches, could be the answer to protecting the UK’s coastline and critical infrastructure. The sandscaping scheme has moved enough sand from the seabed to the shoreline to half-fill Wembley Stadium and has raised the beach by up to seven metres, protecting the coastline for up to 20 years. The project is a UK first and could provide a blueprint for a further 15 sites around the UK.

Jobs
The Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank is to close its Norwich operating centre. The group, which is due to complete its integration with Virgin Money shortly, currently has a headcount of about 9,500 of which c1,500 jobs will go by the end of 2021. Jobs will disappear from the brand and marketing and retail distribution divisions. Virgin Money’s Discovery House in Norwich is expected to close by the end of October 2020, with roles transferring to other locations. Less than 50 of the 150 staff currently employed there are expected to lose their jobs. Overall, most of the 330 jobs from the Norwich, Leeds and Edinburgh operations will be redeployed.

Newspaper and magazines group Archant has announced the closure of its main printing centre at Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich; instead newspapers will be printed by Newsprinters, in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Archant, publishes more than 50 papers and nearly 60 magazines including the Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times. The Thorpe site opened in 1996 but lacked the capacity and flexibility which the Broxbourne facility offers. The Newsprinters site, a subsidiary of News UK, is the largest print centre in the world and prints The Sun, The Telegraph, The Times and the Evening Standard. The 96 staff at Thorpe St Andrew have been informed there may be redundancies.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for the East of England, the eight other English regions plus Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the East of England economy declined by 0.4%. This ranked the region eleventh of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the services sector grew by 0.8%, while both the production and construction sectors fell by 2.0% and 3.4% respectively.
More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked the East of England tenth with growth of 1.2%, which suggests the region has not improved much so far this year relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the East of England increased by 3,000 to 99,000 between May and July, the uplift of 0.1% took the overall rate to 3.1%. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 79.2% in the East of England. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

East of England average property prices nudged up by 0.1% to £292,444, which meant annually prices had fallen by 0.5%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

Deprivation in Oldham accelerates fastest in the UK but in Copeland it falls significantly, the latest ONS figures flag the North West’s mediocre economic performance

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by eight areas of Blackpool then, despite the wealth passing through it, Anfield as the tenth most deprived part of England. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

In terms of local authorities, at 49%, Liverpool had the second largest share of the most deprived areas, Knowsley was ranked third with 47%, on 43% Manchester was fifth, Blackpool, Burnley and Blackburn also made the top ten. In terms of performance since 2015, five areas of the North West have seen deprivation accelerate the fastest in the UK. Oldham topped the list and saw deprivation increase by c8%, with Rossendale, Blackburn,Halton and Burnley all making the top seven. In Copeland, deprivation fell by c6%, the tenth fastest fall in the UK, and was the regional star performer.

The MHCLG found concentrations of deprivation in a number of coastal towns, many of which are in the North West, and there was new money for the region in the latest tranche from the Coastal Communities Fund, with Whitehaven a winner. The North West was also awarded £18.7m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Blackpool, Maryport and Wigan some of the dozen or so NW towns that will benefit.

Delegates who attended the Convention of the North at the ‘Magnum Centre’ in Rotherham were first treated to Latin ice cream jokes before the PM outlined plans to give Northern Mayors and combined authorities more control over setting local train fares, timetables and budgets. He cited his experience as Mayor of London as evidence of how transport in London improved when devolved from central government. At county level, he also floated the idea that councils or community partnerships could take control of branch lines and their stations.

Transport
It is difficult to see how rail reforms could make services much worse, after a report by Transport for the North found Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) services worse than they were a year ago when they were disrupted by timetabling chaos. More services were either late or cancelled in July and August than the previous year the report found, with the rail firms pointing to weather events such as flooding and extreme heat as mitigating factors. The percentage of TPE trains running on time dropped to 70.9% between 21 July and 17 August from 75.7% in the same period last year, with an average of 42 trains cancelled daily, representing 12.9% of services. At Northern, punctuality fell to 79.4% from 82.2%, with an average of 139 trains cancelled each day, representing 5.3% of services. The latest National Rail Passenger Survey of the 25 UK rail companies ranked Northern 23rd and TPE 18th. Last month, popular Virgin Trains, which was ranked second with a 91% satisfaction rating by passengers, lost its franchise to TPE’s parent.

Liverpool Combined Authority has unveiled a £172.5m wish list of transport improvements, plans include the first new Mersey ferries for 60 years. Two new vessels, new bridges and an updated landing stage at the Seacombe terminal are envisaged. Other projects being considered include, new Merseyrail stations at St James Gateway in Liverpool and Headbolt Lane in Kirkby; expansion of Lime Street ahead of HS2; station improvements at Birkenhead Central, Runcorn and Lea Green and a new 600km cycle route across the city region.

Liverpool City Council has sold half of its stake in Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Investment management company, Ancala Partners, has acquired 45% of the airport, 10% from the council and 35% from the Peel Group. Peel retains 45% of its stake and the council 10%. Financial details of the deal are not available but the council’s orderly exit suggests its intervention in 2016 has been successful. The airport is the UK’s 12th busiest serving c5m passengers last year.

Interventions
A less successful £15m intervention by Carlisle City Council to revamp a rundown estate in the city which was eventually knocked down anyway is likely to cost more than £50m in total. The authority took out an interest-only loan in 1995 which now needs to be refinanced. The council has a revenue budget of c£11m a year. Also in the city, plans have been unveiled for a £15m upgrade of Carlisle railway station. This £15m is part of the £350m Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal rather than an interest only loan.

Jobs
Total Polyfilm Ltd, which has sites in Bamber Bridge and Preston has ceased production. The firm produced polythene wrap for agriculture and industry but lost key customers after a fire in 2016. Seventeen jobs have been retained to assist the administrators with the winding-down of operations but over 200 staff have been made redundant.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for the North West, the other eight English regions, and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the NW economy grew by 0.5%. This ranked the NW tenth out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4% whilst at the bottom the South West economy declined by 1.1%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked the NW fourth with growth of 1.6%, which suggests the region has had a better 2019 so far relative to other parts of the UK.

The ONS figures also highlighted that the quarter to Dec 2018 was not good for the region, with the economy recording negative growth of 0.7%, the only part of the UK to decline. The real estate and construction industries grew by 0.5% and 0.8% and were the largest positive contributors to growth but manufacturing fell by 2.1% and was a major drag on the economy. Overall, the production and services sectors both contributed negatively to growth.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the NW increased by 23,000 to 156,000 between May and July, the increase of 0.6% was the highest in England and took the overall rate to 4.3%. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 74.8% in the NW. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

NW average property prices increased by 1.0% to £166,022, which took annual growth to 2.3% which was the second highest in England. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

Walsall and Worcester see deprivation increase, the Peaky Blinders effect in the West Midlands and the region sees the biggest fall in unemployment in the UK

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (‘the Ministry’) has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by nine areas of the North West as the most deprived in England, the Druids Heath area of Birmingham is the first WM entry and is ranked 45th. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

In terms of local authorities, 41% of Birmingham was classified as deprived which ranked the city seventh worst in the UK, Stoke was 12th. In terms of performance since 2015, two areas of the WM have seen deprivation accelerate the fastest in the UK. Walsall was ranked third and saw deprivation increase by c6%, with Worcester ninth at c5%. In comparison, Wolverhampton and Sandwell are no longer on the list of the 32 most deprived authorities.

Walsall and Worcester are two of the 16 WM towns invited to apply for regeneration funding of up to £25m as part of the £3.6bn Towns Fund which is targeted at 100 English towns. Towns must submit economic growth plans with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. The Midlands were also awarded £21.1m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Stoke, Oswestry and Wednesbury some of the half dozen or so WM towns that will benefit.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (‘WMCA’) will invest £18m in the UK’s centre for battery development in Coventry. This adds to government funding of £108m. The facility is due to open in March 2020 and will initially employ c100 people. In another intervention, WMCA (via Telford and Wrekin Council) will outlay £3.7m to redevelop 14 hectares of brownfield sites – enough for 540 homes.

During a tour in Derby, Midlands Minister Robert Jenrick, announced the government’s commitment to further devolution deals across the region. He also undertook to deliver a new Midlands Engine Strategy this autumn which will be written in partnership with the region.

Transport
Construction work continues while the HS2 review is ongoing but if HS2 does goes ahead, the first phase between London and Birmingham will be delayed by up to five years, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed. That section of the line was due to open at the end of 2026, but it could now be between 2028 and 2031 before the first trains run on the route. HS2’s total cost has risen from £62bn to between £81bn and £88bn.

The West Coast rail franchise changes hands at the end of the year and a report due to go to the WMCA has set out the planned improvements. First Group and Italian state operator Trenitalia will run the franchise between 2019 and 2031 and will refurbish first class lounges at Birmingham New Street; offer free wi-fi at six more stations; provide more direct services to London from Wallsall and Shrewsbury; and install more car parking at Birmingham International.

Also on the trains, plans have been submitted to build two new railway stations, Kings Heath and Hazelwell, on the Camp Hill line south of Birmingham. The line’s stations closed during 1941 and since then the track has only been used for freight and infrequent through-services. A third station at Moseley is also planned.

Development
The WMCA’s economic development offshoot the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC), has suggested screen tourism, fuelled by the success of Peaky Blinders, has contributed to the 2.6% increase in visitors to the region. The West Midlands had a record 131.4m visitors last year, of which overseas tourists contributed £16.7m to the economy. The gold standard in screen tourism, however, has been set by Game of Thrones. The show is estimated to have brought £251m into Northern Ireland since production began in 2010. Figures from Tourism NI suggest that 350,000 fans visit Northern Ireland every year as a result and spend £50m.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for the West Midlands, the eight other English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the WM economy grew by 3.2%. This ranked the WM second out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4% whilst at the bottom the South West economy declined by 1.1%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed administration/support services grew by 8.7% and made the biggest positive contribution to growth but manufacturing fell by 1.5%, information and communication fell by 5.0%, and the human health and social work industries fell by 3.0%. Overall, the construction sector contributed positively to GDP growth, the services sector was flat and the production sector contracted. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked the WM eleventh with growth of 1.1%, which suggests the March ‘Brexit’ slowdown has hit the region harder relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the WM decreased by 23,000 to 122,000 between May and July, the fall of 0.8% was the best in the UK and took the overall rate to 4.2%. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 74.6% in the NW. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

WM average property prices increased by 1.2% to £199,802, which took annual growth to 1.8%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.