The State of Britain

Staff Writer

What's your thought on The State of Britain?

The NE economy treads water, regional unemployment becomes a UK outlier, and mixed news in Sunderland

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Nine hundred year old Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland, once the private palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham, has reopened after a three year multimillion-pound renovation; the Castle hopes to attract 130,000 visitors a year. The project was funded by a £12.4m heritage lottery grant and £7m from the Auckland Castle Trust.

In Gateshead, £90m could be spent bulldozing a 20-acre site adjacent to the High Street. New housing and green spaces would be created; up to 30 businesses will be asked to relocate. Gateshead Council said it would be working with partners to realise the plan.

In Sunderland, Legal & General has announced it will invest in a plan which includes the development of the old Vaux Brewery. One of the three buildings planned for the project is the new Sunderland City Hall.

Vaux Brewery closed in 1999 after 162 years and the 26-acre site has been vacant since then. In July, online supermarket Ocado announced plans to set up a new centre at Vaux, creating 300 jobs. Overall, spend on the entire project could top £100m.

Also in Sunderland, Hays Travel has announced plans to hire an extra 1,500 staff. The travel agent has already taken on 2,330 former Thomas Cook employees but now plans to hire more staff, of which 200 people will be at its head office in the city.

Not such good news for the area was energy firm Npower’s decision to cut up to 4,500 jobs as part of a restructuring plan. Three call centres are under threat of closure, one of which is at Houghton le Spring, where 2,500 are employed.

Chinese firm Jingye says will invest £1.2bn in British Steel after it provisionally agreed to rescue the steelmaker. Hundreds of workers are employed by British Steel in the North East, at sites near Redcar; at Skinningrove, east Cleveland; and at Blaydon. The new owners did not put a number on how many jobs would be saved.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for the North East, the other eight English regions, and Wales, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest available figures showed the NE economy grew by 1.5%, up from 0.9% the previous quarter. This placed the NE seventh (previous ranking eighth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.2% whilst at the bottom the Yorkshire and Humberside economy declined by 0.3%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures also highlighted that the quarter to March 2019 was better for the region than the previous quarter. The North East economy grew by 0.4% in January to March 2019, following growth of 0.2% in October to December 2018.

In this period, the health and construction industries grew by 6.9% and 3.2% and made the largest positive contributions to growth, whereas the education and energy industries recorded negative growth of 4.3% and 7.9%.

The services sector contributed the most to GDP whereas the production sector was a drag on the regional economy.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked the NE eighth (previous ranking was ninth) with growth of 1.2%, which suggests the region has had a slightly better summer relative to other parts of the UK.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) was 2.32%, which compared with the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the NE increased by 7,000 to 75,000 between July and September; the increase of 0.5% took the overall rate to 5.9%, the highest rate in the UK. The next highest rate was London at 4.5%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.5% with the UK rate at 3.8%.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 71.2% in the NE. UK employment was estimated at 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in the North East were up by £14 to £551 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £830. The lowest average earnings of £527 were recorded in Wales. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

NE average property prices were flat over the month at £132,769, which took annual growth to 2.0%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

ESCoe regional growth figures suggest the SW sits bottom of the UK rankings, SW unemployment remains very low but the region loses its crown to Northern Ireland

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The pooling of cross-border skills and expertise on both sides of the Severn estuary could drive prosperity for the region. That was the view of Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns, and Secretary of State for Communities, Robert Jenrick, at the launch of the Western Gateway, a strategic partnership promoting economic growth across south Wales and the west of England.

Linking a number of towns and cities across a wide region either side of the Severn, the Western Gateway will mirror the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

On infrastructure investment, the SW did well this month.  Of the £374m Housing Infrastructure Fund spend announced by Jenrick, £204m was in the region. The funds will be invested in roads, schools, public transport and utilities.

In Wiltshire, there was £19m for the Southern Connector Road to link the Swindon New Eastern Villages development, and there was also £75m for the Chippenham Urban Expansion. In Cornwall, the Hayle Junctions Infrastructure Project will get £13m, and in North Somerset, the M5-A38 Strategic Development obtained £97m.

On jobs, Numatic International, the firm behind the Henry and Hattie vacuum cleaners, is to expand its Chard site by about a third to 34 acres.

The investment in buildings will create space for offices, storage, and research and development. About 300 new jobs could be added to the existing c1100 headcount.

Grocer Ocado, has announced plans for a new Customer Fulfilment Centre in Bristol, creating c815 jobs. The new centre is being built in an existing warehouse and is expected to be operational by early 2021 at the latest.

In Poole, Walstead Southernprint has begun a 45-day consultation with its 179 staff. The printing plant is slated for closure due to falling magazine volumes.

The firm said printing volumes had declined by c50% between 2011 and 2018, and that the Poole work could be absorbed by its other plants in Bicester, Peterborough and St Austell.

And in Cornwall, the oldest Cornish pasty maker in the world, Warrens, has said its St Just bakery is no longer viable. The firm will keep its south-east Cornwall factory in Callington but the St Just facility is too remote and will close with significant job losses likely.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for the SW, the other eight English regions, and Wales, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest available figures showed the SW’s economy grew by 1.0%, up from a contraction of 1.1% the previous quarter. This placed the SW tenth (previous ranking last) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.2%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures also showed that growth in the region’s economy accelerated in the quarter to March 2019. The SW economy grew by 0.7% in January to March 2019, following growth of 0.3% in October to December 2018.

Manufacturing grew by 2.0%, the water supply, sewerage and waste management industry grew by 10.1% and the public administration and defence industries grew by 2.2%, whereas the information and communication industry, along with education, both fell by 1.7%.

Overall, the agriculture sector was the only sector to be a negative contributor to GDP growth – output in the production, construction and services sectors all grew.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked the SW last (previous ranking third) with growth of 0.4%, which suggests the region has had a poor quarter relative to other parts of the UK. Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) was 2.32%.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region fell by 4,000 to 75,000 between July and September; the drop of 0.1% took the overall rate to 2.6%. For the first time in months though the region did not have the lowest rate, Northern Ireland recorded 2.5%, with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West did have the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with the UK rate at 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in the SW were down by £8 to £595 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £830. The lowest average earnings of £527 were recorded in Wales. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

The SW’s average property price was flat over the month at £260,158, which took annual growth to 0.5%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

Regional growth figures suggest a pick up in the EE economy and the increase in regional pay the best in the UK

Reading Time: 3 minutes

On infrastructure investment the region did well this month.  Of the £100m spend announced by the Department of Transport, £19.8m was in the EE.

These funds will be deployed on the East of Ipswich Strategic Highway Works after the bid from Suffolk County Council to deliver the transport infrastructure needed for 2,000 homes was successful.

On economic development, the mechanism by which councils will have the opportunity to bid for funding of up to £25m as part of the government’s £3.6bn Towns Fund has been unveiled by Communities Minister, Robert Jenrick.

The Towns Fund prospectus provides information to the councils in 100 places that have been chosen to pioneer Town Deals. Councils will receive a share of a £16.4m funding pot to shape up their plans.

The £25m funding could be used to redevelop vacant buildings and land, support small businesses, boost transport links and increase access to high-speed broadband.

Lead councils in each area will now bring together a Town Deal Board, including representatives from across the public, private and voluntary sectors, to develop bespoke Town Investment Plans by summer 2020. EE towns include Ipswich, Lowestoft, Norwich, Margate and Colchester amongst others.

Also, the first Thames Estuary Envoy, who will act as the Chair of the Thames Estuary Growth Board, has been appointed.

The announcement follows the government’s response to the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission report earlier this year. The Growth Commission was established in 2016 to develop a plan for north Kent, south Essex and east London up to 2050.

Despite the proximity to London, parts of the Thames Estuary contain neighbourhoods with high levels of deprivation and higher levels of unemployment compared with the average for England.

The Board is a voluntary partnership between local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, universities, businesses and civil society and will receive £1m of government funding to initiate economic growth plans in the area.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for the East of England, the other eight English regions, and Wales, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest figures showed the East of England’s economy grew by 0.1%, up from a contraction of 0.4% the previous quarter. This again placed the EE eleventh out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.2%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures also showed though, that growth in the region’s economy accelerated in the quarter to March 2019. The EE economy grew by 0.3% in January to March 2019, following a contraction of 0.2% in October to December 2018.

The manufacturing industry grew by 1.9% and made the largest positive contribution to growth but wholesale and retail trade fell by 2.1% and real estate dipped by 0.7%. Overall, the production sector was the main contributor to growth.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked the EE fifth (previous ranking tenth) with growth of 1.5%, which suggests the region has had a better summer relative to other parts of the UK.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) was 2.32%, which compared with the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region increased by 6,000 to 101,000 between July and September; the uplift of 0.2% took the overall rate to 3.1%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5%, with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 78.3% in the EE; the UK rate was 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in the EE were up by £32 to £685 per week, the biggest uplift in the UK. London had the highest average earnings of £830. The lowest average earnings of £527 were recorded in Wales. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

The EE’s average property price fell by 0.4% over the month to £291,993, which took the annual decrease to 0.2%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

The NW economy ranked third, the region tops house price growth, and competition concerns on the West Coast mainline

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ministers have called a halt to fracking following a report from the Oil and Gas Authority. The authority raised concerns about the ability to predict fracking-linked earthquakes.

Cuadrilla had already suspended work at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire after a series of tremors.

The effective moratorium will be maintained until new evidence is provided which addresses the concerns around the prediction and management of induced seismicity.

An assessment by the British Geological Survey in 2013 suggested there were enough resources in the Bowland resource across northern England to potentially provide up to 50 years of current gas demand.

On transport, West Coast Rail, a joint venture between FirstGroup and Italian firm Trenitali, will take over the running of the West Coast Mainline next month, replacing Virgin, which was barred from bidding.  FirstGroup also operates TransPennine Express which is Virgin’s only competitor on most of the northern part of the route.

The Competition and Markets Authority has raised concerns ticket prices could rise under the new franchise. The Authority said that on 21 routes, passengers would have little or no option but to choose a service run by FirstGroup. The Authority’s investigation into the new contract is ongoing.

TransPennine Express, has, however, unveiled a new £500m fleet of trains promising to increase capacity by 80% on routes in the North West. The investment over two years in the new Nova fleet will see 44 new trains run between Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

In September, a report by Transport for the North, found an increase in both late and cancelled services on TransPennine Express and Northern rail services compared with 2018. TPE blamed its worsening performance largely on weather events such as flooding and extreme heat.

Fewer than half of Northern rail services ran on time last month, the firm’s own figures have now shown. Only 45.4% of its trains arrived within a minute of their scheduled times between 11 October to 8 November.

Most commuters will put up with a short delay but cancellations for Northern are now at the highest level since late summer, with 5.2% of services abandoned, compared to 4.4% between July and August. Last month, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, mooted putting the company into public ownership if problems persist.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for the North West, the other eight English regions, and Wales, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest available figures showed the NW economy grew by 1.8%, up from 0.5% the previous quarter. This placed the NW sixth (previous ranking tenth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.2% whilst at the bottom the Yorkshire and Humberside economy declined by 0.3%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures also highlighted that the quarter to March 2019 was far better for the region than the previous quarter. The North West economy grew by 1.0% in January to March 2019, following negative growth of 0.2% in October to December 2018.

In this period, the manufacturing industry grew by 6.7% and was the largest positive contributor to growth whereas education fell by 4.7%. Overall the services sector was the only drag on growth. The other three sectors, agriculture, production and construction, contributed positively.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked the NW third (previous ranking fourth)  with growth of 1.7%, which suggests the region has had a better summer relative to other parts of the UK.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) was 2.32%, which compared with the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the NW fell by 5,000 to 153,000 between July and September; the small decrease of 0.1% took the overall rate to 4.2%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.5% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 75.3% in the NW. UK employment was estimated at 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in the North West were up by £20 to £595 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £830. The lowest average earnings of £527 were recorded in Wales. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

NW average property prices fell by 0.3% to £167,683, which took annual growth to 2.8% which was the highest in Great Britain. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

ONS and ESCoe regional growth figures suggest the EM plummets down the UK rankings over nine months, the economy contracts in Q1, but a good increase in regional pay

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The mechanism by which councils will have the opportunity to bid for funding of up to £25m as part of the government’s £3.6bn Towns Fund  has been unveiled by Midlands Minister, Robert Jenrick. The Towns Fund prospectus provides information to councils in 100 places chosen to pioneer Town Deals and councils will receive a share of £16.4m funding to shape up their plans.

The funding could be used to redevelop vacant buildings and land, support small businesses, boost transport links and increase access to high-speed broadband.

Lead councils in each place will now bring together a Town Deal Board, including representatives from across the public, private and voluntary sectors, to develop bespoke Town Investment Plans by summer 2020.

Thirty towns are in the Midlands Engine area. EM towns include Corby, Mansfield Northampton, and Staveley amongst others.

The region did well on infrastructure investment this month.  Of the £255m Housing Infrastructure Fund spend announced by the Chancellor, £43m was earmarked for the EM.

A bid from Rutland County Council to deliver a new school and infrastructure at St George’s Barracks, North Luffenham, secured £29m. Also Leicestershire County Council was awarded £15m for the Melton Mowbray Southern Distributor Road.

Legislation to create two unitary authorities in Northamptonshire to replace the troubled county council and the district and borough councils has been parked.

The government had already approved the plan, and Parliament was expected to pass it before the election, but it was put on hold after Labour called for a third unitary council in the county, to serve Northampton only.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for the East Midlands, the other eight English regions, and Wales, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest available figures showed the EM’s economy annually grew by 2.0%, down from 3.4% growth the previous quarter. This placed the EM fifth (previous ranking first) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.2%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures also showed that the region’s economy was one of three in the UK to contract in the quarter to March 2019, the others were Y&H and Wales. The EM economy declined by 0.2% in January to March 2019, following growth of 0.3% in October to December 2018.

In this period, the education industry grew by 5.6% and made the largest positive contribution to growth whereas administrative and support service activities fell by 6.9% and made the largest negative contribution.

Overall, the services sector was the only positive contributor to GDP, while agriculture and production went into reverse and construction made no contribution either way.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked the EM eleventh (previous rank ninth) with growth of 0.7%, which suggests the region has had a poor summer relative to other parts of the UK and has slipped from first to eleventh in nine months.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) was 2.32%, which compared with the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region increased by 6,000 to 101,000 between July and September; the uplift of 0.2% took the overall rate to 4.5%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.5% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 76.7% in the region. UK employment was estimated at 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in the EM were up by £30 to £584 per week, the second highest uplift in the UK. London had the highest average earnings of £830. The lowest average earnings of £527 were recorded in Wales. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

EM’s average property prices fell by 1.2% over the month to £194,219, which took annual growth to a meagre 0.1%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

The WM economy slips down the UK rankings, a significant decrease in regional unemployment, and internal discord perceptible during the HS2 review

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The mechanism by which councils will have the opportunity to bid for funding of up to £25m as part of the government’s £3.6bn Towns Fund  has been unveiled by Midlands Minister Robert Jenrick.

The Towns Fund prospectus provides information to councils in 100 places chosen to pioneer Town Deals. Councils will receive a share of £16.4m funding to shape up their plans.

The funding could be used to redevelop vacant buildings and land, support small businesses, boost transport links and increase access to high-speed broadband.

Lead councils in each place will bring together a Town Deal Board, including representatives from across the public, private and voluntary sectors, to develop bespoke Town Investment Plans by summer 2020.

Thirty towns are in the Midlands engine area. WM towns include Burton upon Trent, Crewe, Dudley, Hereford and Worcester amongst others.

The deputy chair of the HS2 review panel and critic of the project, Lord Berkeley, says he has been given no opportunity to influence the final report. Lord Berkeley, a civil engineer who worked on the construction of the Channel Tunnel, was appointed when Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, launched the review in August.

The Department for Transport would not confirm when the Oakervee review would be published, but it seems likely this will now be after the election.

The new £88bn railway line would run from London to the West Midlands, Manchester and Leeds. Trains on the London to Birmingham route would be 400m-long, have up to 1,100 seats and would be capable of reaching speeds of up to 250mph. They would run as many as 14 times per hour in each direction and cut Birmingham to London journey times from one hour 21 minutes to 52 minutes.

Also on rail, West Midlands Trains routes were severely disrupted last month. West Midlands Trains operates West Midlands Railways and London Northwestern Railway, running services from London Euston to Birmingham and around the Midlands. On some days, 55% of its services were late or cancelled.

Train crew shortages, broken-down trains, a loss of power to overhead wires between Watford Junction and London Euston were cited as excuses.

Figures released by Network Rail in October showed one in five trains operated by West Midlands Railway were failing to arrive on time. This was the worst performance since the firm took over the franchise nearly two years ago.

The operator said a new timetable introduced in May had proved too complicated and a simplified timetable would be introduced on 15 December.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for the West Midlands, the other eight English regions, and Wales, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest available figures showed the WM economy grew by 2.3%, down from 3.2% growth the previous quarter. This placed the WM fourth (previous ranking second) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.2%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures showed that growth in the region’s economy eased off slightly in the quarter to March 2019. The WM economy grew by 0.5% in January to March 2019, following growth of 0.6% in October to December 2018.

In this period, the construction sector grew by 4.5% and made the biggest positive contribution to growth but manufacturing dipped by 1.7%, education fell by 4.2% and energy dropped by 6.5%.

In terms of sectors, services contributed positively to GDP growth, whereas both the agriculture and production sectors contracted.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked the WM ninth (previous ranking eleventh) with growth of 1.0%, which suggests the region has underperformed other parts of the UK since the winter.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) was 2.32% which compared with the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More positively, data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region decreased by 14,000 to 121,000 between July and September; the decrease of 0.5% was the second best performance in England and took the overall rate to 4.1%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.5% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 75.1% in the region. UK employment was estimated at 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in the WM were up by £14 to £591 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £830. The lowest average earnings of £527 were recorded in Wales. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

WM’s average property prices fell by 0.4% over the month to £201,273, which took annual growth to 1.6%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

ONS figures show the region’s economy the only part of the UK to contract, a whopping fall in Y&H unemployment, and Bradford the most improved place in the UK

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Chinese firm Jingye will invest £1.2bn in British Steel after it provisionally agreed to rescue the steelmaker. British Steel employs about 4,000 people in Scunthorpe and Teesside. The new owners did not put a number on how many jobs would be saved.

In North Yorkshire, Sirius Minerals has published a revised two-phase plan for the development of its fertiliser mine. The future of the mine was questioned after the firm cancelled plans to raise £403m through a bond sale.

The company will now seek to raise an initial £470m to fund the construction of mineshafts and the first section of a tunnel near Whitby. There will be separate funding for the rest of the tunnel and processing and shipping facilities at Teesside. This phase will be deferred for between 12 and 24 months.

The site would be the world’s largest mine for polyhalite, a naturally occurring fertiliser which is used in agriculture; more than 1,000 jobs would be created.

Also in Yorkshire, plans for a £200m business centre, power station, education campus and research centre in the east of the county have been approved. The Yorkshire Energy Park will be built on a former aerodrome at Hedon near Hull after councillors narrowly approved the project.

The aerodrome, owned by Hull City Council, will feature an energy generation plant providing power for the site and the National Grid. Several global companies have backed the project including EON, IBM, Vodafone and Chinese telecom giant ZTE. Final approval by the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government is still required.

The city of Bradford is the most improved place in the UK to live and work, according to a study by accountants PWC and think-tank Demos. The criteria used include jobs, health, income and skills, as well as work-life balance, house affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.

The best cities and towns to live in were named as Oxford and Reading, which retained first and second places for the fourth year in a row

As part of the government’s drive to make the North of England the world-leader in the creation of modern, green homes, Yorkshire, as part of the ‘Construction Corridor’, is receiving £30m.

Homes England will provide the funding directly to ilke Homes to increase production at the firm’s factory in Knaresborough. The terms of the funding are not known.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for Yorkshire and The Humber, the other eight English regions, and Wales, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest available figures were not good, and showed the Y&H economy was the only part of the UK to contract, by 0.3%, down from 0.6% growth the previous quarter. This placed Y&H last (previous ranking ninth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.2%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures also showed that the region’s economy was one of three in the UK to contract in the quarter to March 2019, the others were Wales and the East Midlands. The Y&H economy declined by 0.3% in January to March 2019, following growth of 0.5% in October to December 2018.

Despite the poor overall picture, the finance and construction industries grew by 3.5% and 2.4% but education and the energy industry fell by 2.7% and 7.9%. In terms of sectors, production and services both made negative contributions with construction the only bright spot.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked Y&H seventh (previous ranking second) with growth of 1.3%, which suggests the region has outperformed other parts of the UK since the winter.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) was 2.32%, which compared with the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More positively, data from the ONS showed unemployment in Y&H decreased by a whopping 32,000 to 105,000 between July and September; the decrease of 1.1% was by some way the best performance in the UK and took the overall rate to 3.9%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.5% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 73.7% in the region. UK employment was estimated at 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in Y&H were down by £24 to £550 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £830. The lowest average earnings of £527 were recorded in Wales. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

Y&H average property prices fell by 0.1% over the month to £166,745, which took annual growth to 2.2% which was the second highest in England. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

Over the summer Scotland’s economy moves up to fourth in the UK rankings, some concerns over the unemployment rate, and consultation on the replacement for EU structural funds begins

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The UK government has promised to replace EU funding to the regions with a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund. EU structural funds (regional development and social funds) have recycled £740m into Scottish projects between 2014-20.

Last month the Scottish Government launched a consultation on how these funds should be replaced after Brexit.

To complicate the issue, the EU has proposed that ‘transition region’ status should be extended to cover all regions with a GDP per head between 75-100 per cent of the EU average, compared to 75-90 per cent at present.

Seven additional UK sub-regions are likely to slip below the threshold of 100% EU average GDP per head, qualifying them for ‘transition region’ status. South West Scotland falls into this new category.

It is not clear how much extra funding South West Scotland would have received from the EU, but €50 per head over the next EU spending round is not an unreasonable assumption.

In Dundee, the Michelin site has received a £60m funding commitment to turn the former plant into an innovation centre focusing on sustainable mobility, clean transport and low carbon energy.

Last year the firm said that it would close the plant with the loss of all 845 jobs in 2020. More than 400 employees have found new jobs since Michelin announced the closure of the factory.

The £60m investment is supported by Michelin, Scottish Enterprise and Dundee City Council. It is not clear at this stage what the breakdown of the investment is or how much public money is involved.

On transport, figures released by Virgin Trains show more people travelling between London and Glasgow by rail rather than air. The record level was driven by a 6% year-on-year increase in the number of passengers travelling, c718,000, up from c244,000 a decade ago.

FirstGroup and Italian firm Trenitalia, are to take over the running of the route from December, replacing Virgin, which was barred from bidding. In the latest National Rail Passenger Survey, of the 25 operators in the country, Virgin was ranked second.

FirstGroup operates TransPennine Express, Virgin’s only competitor on most of the northern part of the West Coast mainline. The Competition and Markets Authority has raised concerns train ticket prices could rise under the new franchise.

The Authority said that on 21 routes, passengers would have little or no option but to choose a service run by FirstGroup. At Lockerbie, where there are no Scotrail services, passengers will have no choice. The Authority’s investigation into the new contract is ongoing.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for the nine English regions and Wales, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The Scottish figures are compiled by statisticians and economists in the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser of the Scottish Government.

The latest available comparable figures showed that Scotland’s economy grew by 1.4% compared with 1.5% in the year ended December 2018. This ranked the ‘region’ eighth (was previously seventh) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 4.2% with Yorkshire and The Humber bottom at -0.3%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures also showed that growth in Scotland accelerated in the quarter to March 2019. The economy grew by 0.5% in January to March 2019, following growth of 0.1% in October to December 2018.

In this period, food & drink and pharmaceutical & related industries accounted for more than half of the 0.5% growth.

Overall, output in the construction sector increased by 2.0%, output in the production sector increased by 1.8% and output in the services sector grew by 0.1%.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked Scotland fourth (previously sixth) with growth of 1.55%, which suggests the country has had a better summer relative to other parts of the UK.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) was 2.32%, which compared with growth in the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More data from the ONS showed that unemployment increased by 8,000 to 110,000 between July and September; the increase of 0.4% was the second highest in the UK and took the overall rate to 4.0%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5%, with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 74.4% in Scotland; the UK rate was 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in Scotland were up by £21 to £622 per week. London had the highest average earnings in the UK of £830. The lowest average earnings of £527 were recorded in Wales. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

Scotland’s average property price increased by 0.3% over the month to £155,029 which took the annual uplift to 2.4%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

The Welsh economy ranked third in the UK despite contracting by 0.5% in Q1, pay in Wales is the lowest in the UK, and a big monthly drop in house prices

Reading Time: 3 minutes

On economic development, Aston Martin launched the DBX sport utility vehicle, its first Wales-made car. The firm’s first full-size five-seater will cost £158,000. The St Athan plant employs 300 workers, which could rise to 750 staff when fully operational, and has the capacity to produce 4,000 DBX vehicles a year.

The factory could also build the firm’s new electric Lagonda and RapidE cars, although these will be produced on a much smaller scale.

The Welsh Government pledged £18.8m in grants to attract the firm with taxpayers also on the hook for a 30-year guarantee to Aston Martin that would see public money cover the rent of the factory should the firm leave.

The value of the guarantee has not been disclosed. Earlier this year, Aston Martin announced it was borrowing £116.7m in high yield debt.

Also on cars, Ineos is building a manufacturing and assembly plant for its new 4×4 vehicle and plans to begin production in Bridgend in 2021. It is expected to initially create around 200 jobs to make the Grenadier, and up to 500 roles in the long-term.

It is not known how much taxpayers will stump up but the firm is planning to invest £600m in the new car, inspired by the original Land Rover Defender, which went out of production in 2016.

Tata Steel announced it expects to cut 1,000 jobs across the UK as part of its restructuring plans. Two thirds of the losses will be management and office-based roles, but jobs in Wales could be at risk.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for Wales and the nine English regions, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest figures showed the Welsh economy grew by 2.6% compared with 1.8% in the year ended December 2018. This ranked the ‘region’ third (previously fifth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 4.2% with Yorkshire and The Humber bottom at -0.3%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures, however, also showed that the Welsh economy, along with the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber, contracted in the quarter to March 2019. The contraction was 0.5% in January to March 2019, following growth of 0.4% in October to December 2018.

In this period, manufacturing grew by 1.6% and health grew by 1.0%, with wholesale and retail trade growing by 0.9%.  The transportation and storage industry output fell by 17.6% and the information and communication industry fell by 4.5%.

Overall, the production sector was the main driver of GDP within Wales with the services sector a major drag on the economy.

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked Wales sixth (pervious ranking eighth) with growth of 1.31%, which suggests the country has had a better summer than winter.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) during this period was 2.32% compared with growth in the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More data from the ONS showed that unemployment decreased by 2,000 to 59,000 between July and September; the decrease of 0.1% took the overall rate to 3.8%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5%, with the UK rate also at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 73.9% in Wales; the UK rate was 76.0%.

In September, average earnings in Wales were down by £55 to £527 per week, the lowest in the UK. London had the highest average earnings of £830. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

Welsh average property prices fell by 2.8% (the biggest drop in the UK) over the month to £164,433 which took the annual uplift to 2.6%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

The Northern Ireland economy ranked second in the UK, the unemployment rate the lowest in the UK, and house prices in the Province jump

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Northern Ireland public transport provider Translink, which oversees NI Railways, Ulsterbus and Metro, has appointed a contractor for the first phase of the new Belfast Transport Hub, which is likely to cost in the region of £200m.

The Weavers Cross project is an eight hectare development on the site of the existing Europa bus centre and Great Victoria Street train station. The Hub will be the main transport gateway to Belfast, with rail, bus and coach connections to all parts of Northern Ireland.

The project could create up to 400 jobs over the next five years with 100 jobs in the initial phase.

Also on employment, lorry trailer manufacturer SDC Trailers, is cutting an undetermined number of jobs across its plants in Toomebridge and Mansfield. The company was sold to Chinese group CIMC Vehicles in 2016 and employs 800 people – 650 in plants in Northern Ireland, with a further 150 in Nottinghamshire.

The new Hinch Distillery, which will produce whiskey and gin from a facility near Ballynahinch, will create 40 jobs. The project will include a visitor centre, restaurant, pub and event spaces and is being supported with a £1.9m taxpayer grant from Invest Northern Ireland.

In 2010 there were four distilleries in Ireland, now there are 24.

Northern Ireland Screen has also committed £218,000 of public money in production funding towards a simulation game, Paleo Pines, where players become dinosaur ranchers. The game is being developed by County Down game development studio, Italic Pig, and is likely to cost over £1m.

The Agency plans to spend about £300,000 per year on video game production funding until 2022, and a further £2.8m over the same period in development funding for Northern Ireland’s video game industry.  Having backed Game of Thrones, who would dare question the wisdom of the quango’s approach.

Spirit, the buyer of Bombardier’s Northern Ireland operations, has suggested it may try to renegotiate a £113m taxpayer loan advanced for the development of the wing factory for the CSeries passenger plane, later renamed the Airbus A220. A loan repayment is made every time an A220 is delivered to a customer.

The Stats

Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its next estimates for Wales and the nine English regions, for the year to March 2019. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

The latest comparable figures showed the NI economy grew by 1.3% compared with 1.8% in the year ended December 2018. This ranked the ‘region’ ninth (previously fifth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 4.2% with Yorkshire and The Humber bottom at -0.3%. Propelled by a drive to meet the original March 31st Brexit date, UK growth over the same period was 2.2%.

The ONS figures also showed that the NI economy grew by 0.4% in the quarter to March 2019. This compared with growth of 0.2% in October to December 2018.

In this period, contributions came from the production sector (0.3%) and construction (0.1%) but the services sector contracted (0.2%).

Estimates published by ESCoE last month for the year ended September 2019, a more recent period than the ONS figures, ranked NI second (previous ranking last) with growth of 1.79%, which suggests the ‘region’ has had a better summer relative to other parts of the UK.

Using this metric, UK growth was 1.45%. Growth in London (ranked first) during this period was 2.32% compared with growth in the South West of England (bottom) at 0.41%

More data from the ONS showed that unemployment fell by 5,000 to 23,000 between July and September; the whopping decrease of 0.6% took the overall rate to 2.5%, the lowest in the UK, the UK rate was 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.9% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 72.3% in NI; the UK rate was 76.0%. During the last recession the NI employment rate fell to 64%.

In September, average earnings in NI were down by £3 to £542 per week. The lowest earnings of £527 were in Wales. London had the highest average earnings of £830. In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 3.6% or by 1.8% after inflation.

NI average property prices increased by 2.3% (the biggest uplift in the UK) over the month to £139,951, which took the annual rise to 4.0% (also the best in the UK). In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.2% to £234,370 during September, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.