The State of Britain

EE

The USA the region’s largest export market, Southend-on-Sea imports £83m of services, £3bn less than Hertfordshire, and EE house prices drop the most in the UK

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HMRC has published the latest regional trade figures which show exports and imports for 2019. Given the time period this data reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil. 

In the year to December 2019, the overall value of UK trade in goods exports increased by 2.1% to £346bn compared with the same period in 2018. The overall value of imports increased by 0.3% to £483bn.

There was an increase in the annual export value in the EE along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The EE’s exports increased by 2.4% or £675m to £29bn which was 8% of the UK total.  

The biggest regional exporter remained the SE with £46bn with Northern Ireland the smallest at £9bn. The best performer in percentage terms was London which added 17% with Yorkshire & The Humber falling by 6.3%.

There was a decrease in the annual import value in the EE along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The EE’s imports decreased by 4.3% or 2bn to £45bn which was 9% of the UK total.

The leading regional importer was the SE at £98bn and Northern Ireland was the smallest at £8bn. In percentage terms London added 12% compared with Scotland which reduced imports by 7%.

The USA was the EE’s largest export market with machinery & transport equipment the best export. Most of the EE’s imported goods came from Germany with machinery and transport equipment the biggest import.

Services

This month the ONS published data on regional services imports for 2017. The biggest component of services imported into the UK was £51bn of travel. This was 28% of the £181bn UK total imports of services.

The EE imported £15bn of services value in 2017 of which £4bn was travel. The largest importer of services was London at £60bn with Northern Ireland importing £1.6bn.

At a local level, the biggest importer of non-travel services into the UK was Camden and City of London at £14.5bn, almost double the next largest importer which was Westminster at £7.9bn. Of the 167 local areas, the Western Isles of Scotland imported the least amount, £21m, with Anglesey next at £31m.

In the EE, Hertfordshire imported £3bn of non-travel services compared with £83m in Southend-on-Sea.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed the EE exporting £17bn of services which compared with London at £117bn and Northern Ireland at £2.9bn.

Other data

The ONS has also published the latest regional construction sector data to December 2019 which again reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil. Compared with the previous quarter all parts of the UK recorded a decline with the EE posting a 1.8% drop to £4.2bn.

The biggest decrease in the UK was 4.6% in the West Midlands; the SE was best with a 0.9% fall. Within construction though 5980 new houses were completed in the EE, an increase of 10% on the previous quarter.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 8,000 higher at 114,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.3% took the rate to 3.5%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5% with the NE the highest at 5.6%, the UK rate was 4%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 78.2% in the EE where 3.1m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

The EE’s average property price decreased over the month by 0.7% to £286,869. The fall took the annual drop to 1%, the biggest in the UK. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.

The Bernards Heath area of St Albans and Central Great Yarmouth are the wealthiest and poorest areas of the region, all 5 LEPs record productivity below the UK average

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The ONS has published average household disposal income estimates for England and Wales in 2018. The incomes shown are after tax and housing costs are taken off.  The analysis has shown that 87% of local areas had an average household income of between £22,500 and £39,200; within this over a third were between £28,000 and £33,600.

Of the 50 areas with the highest total incomes, 41 were in London, with the lowest incomes more widely spread geographically across England and Wales. The North East, East England, London, and the South East had no local areas in the bottom 50.

The wealthiest area in England and Wales was Mickleover in Derby with incomes of £52,200 and the poorest was Highfield North in Leicester with £12,500. The two areas are 30 miles from each other and ranked 7200 places apart.

The wealthiest area of the EE was the Bernards Heath area of St Albans with £45,200. This ranked the area 29th out of the 7,201 areas recorded. The poorest area of the region was Central Great Yarmouth with £17,000. This area was ranked 7,062 out of the 7,201 areas of the UK recorded.

Like most regions of the UK, output per hour in the EE is below the UK average. Productivity per hour in the region was 4.6% below the UK average which ranked the region fourth nationally for 2018. One reason for this is the high levels of hours worked and high productivity in London and South East which pulls up the UK average so much that all other regions fall below it.

The ONS has now released data for a longer period and at a subregional level. This gives further insight into the EE’s performance.

Perhaps the most useful is the 2018 results for the 44 enterprise regions in the UK which comprise the 38 English local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and six enterprise regions in Scotland, Wales and the border regions.

Thames Valley Berkshire LEP had the best productivity (in terms of hours and jobs) in 2018 at 35% above the UK average whereas the Black Country LEP at 24% below was the worst.

All of the regions 5 LEPs recorded productivity below the UK average. Hertfordshire was the best and was ranked 10th at just 0.2% below, the other four LEPs all performed reasonably well and ranged from 4% to 9% below the UK average. SEMLEP, Cambridge & Peterborough LEP and the South East LEP were ranked 13th, 17th and 18th. New Anglia LEP at 9% below was ranked 21st out of 44 economic regions.

In terms of productivity growth between 2010 and 2018 the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP was top with growth of 16%. Twelve economic regions recorded productivity levels lower in 2018 than 2010. The worst performer was the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP which saw productivity drop by 11%.

The EE’s results for productivity growth were more mixed. With growth of 7%, SEMLEP was the sixth best in the UK. The Cambridge & Peterborough LEP was ranked 12th nationally with growth of 5%, beating the New Anglia LEP which was ranked 17th with 3% growth. Two of the region’s LEPs recorded productivity levels lower in 2018 than 2010; the South East at -0.2% was ranked 34th, three places above Hertfordshire LEP which recorded -0.6% .

All of the EE’s three subregions recorded productivity below the UK average. Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire was just below at -0.5%, Essex -6% and East Anglia -7%.

At district level, led by Luton (+5%), five of the EE’s economic regions recorded productivity above the UK average. The other 11 areas dropped below the UK average, with Southend-on-Sea recording the lowest productivity at -30%.

The growth in hours worked between 2010 and 2018 in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire area was 26%, beating Essex which recorded 17% and East Anglia on 11%. In UK terms this level of growth was in the top half of the country’s 40 subregions with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire ranked third.

If the increase in economic output is also factored in then the sub regional performances are mixed. East Anglia was ranked 14th in the UK with growth of 4%, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire was placed 28th with 1% and Essex was 36th with -0.4%. 

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 9,000 higher at 110,000 between November and January; the uplift of 0.3% took the overall rate to 3.4%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.4%, the North East the highest at 6.2%, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80% which compared with 78.4% in the EE where 3.2m are employed; the UK rate was 76.5%.

The EE’s average property price decreased by 2.2% to £286,999, which took the annual decrease to 0.6%. In comparison, UK prices decreased by 1.1% to £231,185 during January, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

The region’s economic growth only surpassed by London after stalling in early 2019, EE productivity grows and house prices accelerate

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For the 12 months ended December 2019, a nowcast published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’) on a rolling 4 quarter basis, has estimated that the EE’s growth has increased from 1.5% to 2.1%. ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’).

This ranked the EE second (previous ranking fifth) and suggests the region has improved relative to the other eleven parts of the UK. Over the same period UK growth was 1.4%; growth in London (ranked first) was 3.3%; and growth in the East Midlands (ranked twelfth) was 0.1%.

The latest official ONS figures for an earlier period are not so good. Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September 2019, the ONS has now published its third estimate for the EE 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.

These stats are for the period six months before the ESCoE estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended June 2019 with the same quarter a year earlier. These more volatile figures showed the EE contracted by 0.1%, down from 0.1% growth the previous quarter. This placed the EE tenth (previous ranking eleventh) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.5% whilst UK growth over the same period was 1.4%. The NW was the worst performer and contracted by 0.7%, one of three ‘regions’ (including the EE) in the UK to suffer a decline.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures highlighted that the standalone quarter to June 2019 was slightly better for the region than the previous quarter. The EE economy grew by 0.2% in April to June 2019, following no growth in January to March 2019.

This placed the EE sixth (previous ranking tenth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. Six regions of the UK saw their economies contract as did the UK overall by 0.2%.

In this period, the EE education industry grew by 4.8% but manufacturing fell by 1.9%.

Overall the services sector grew by 0.8%, while production, construction and agriculture fell by 2.2%, 0.6% and 0.5% respectively. The EE services sector has remained relatively flat relative to 2017 whilst production and agriculture have been more volatile with construction generally falling.

Productivity

Like most regions of the UK, output per hour in the EE was below the UK average. Productivity in the EE was 4.6% under the norm which ranked the region fourth in the UK.

Two regions had productivity above the UK average in 2018, London +31.6% and the South East +9.1%. These regions record high levels of hours worked and their high productivity pulls up the UK average so much that all other regions sit below it. Wales was furthest off the average at -17.2%.

The EE was also fourth in the rankings in terms of output per job. The region’s 5.3% below the UK average compared with London at 40.5% above.

In terms of growth in output per hour, six regions of the UK expanded. The EE was ranked fifth as output per hour grew by 0.6%. At 2.3% growth was fastest in Scotland and the biggest contraction was in Yorkshire and the Humber at 2.5%. UK growth was 0.5%.

Sectorally, construction was better than expected but finance and insurance disappointed.

On average, in 2018 the UK economy produced about £35 of value for each hour worked, with finance and insurance top at c£69 per hour compared with accommodation and service activities productivity at c£17 per hour.

Labour

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region increased by 7,000 to 108,000 between October and December; the uplift of 0.2% took the rate to 3.3%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.4%, with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 6.1% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 78.6% or 3.2m in employment in the EE; the UK rate was 76.5%.

In December, average earnings in the EE fell by £16 to £668 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £805 and the lowest average earnings of £530 were recorded in the NE. The EE was ranked third (previous ranking also third).

In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 2.9% or by 1.4% after inflation. After adjusting for inflation, regular pay is now at its highest level since 2000, whereas total pay (which includes bonuses) is still 3.7% below its peak in February 2008.

Housing

The EE’s average property price increased the most in the UK by 1.3% over the month to £297,714; the uplift took the annual increase to 2.4%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.3% to £234,742 during September, an annual growth rate of 2.2%.

The EE one of three UK regions to run a budget surplus and tensions between economic development and planning in evidence

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In the ONS’s estimate of regional public spending and regional tax revenues in 2019, the EE had a surplus of £4.1bn, a larger surplus than the £2.8bn recorded in 2018. This compared with London, which had the highest surplus of £38.9bn.

On a per person basis, the EE’s surplus was £661, higher than the £459 recorded in 2018. London had the largest surplus of £4,369 per person whereas Northern Ireland had the biggest shortfall at £4,978.

The EE was one of three areas of the UK to run surpluses, along with London and the SE of England. The West Midlands and the North East were the two regions in the UK to increase their net fiscal deficits over the year; all the other regions reduced their shortfalls.

At a national level, the UK had a deficit of £623 per person which splits into deficits of £68, £2,713, £4,289 and £4,978 for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

Public spending in the EE was £73bn or £11,772 per head, an increase on the 2018 figure of £71bn. London had the biggest spend of £123.9bn or £13,826 per head whereas Northern Ireland had the lowest at £27.9bn or £14,821 per head. Total government spending was £853bn or £12,835 per head.

The EE collected £77.1bn in taxes in 2019. London contributed the most to the Exchequer at £161.9bn, compared with the lowest contribution of £18.5bn which was from Northern Ireland. Overall the state raised £811.3bn or £12,213 per head in taxes, an uplift of £34.1bn or £461 per head compared with 2018.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the EE fell slightly by 2,000 to 106,000 between September and November 2019; the decrease of 0.1% took the overall rate to 3.3%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.3% with the UK rate at 3.8%.

The South West continued to have the highest employment rate at 79.8% which compared with 78.5% in the EE. The UK employment rate was 76.3%.

EE average property prices fell by 0.7% during November 2019, the drop to £291,281, meant that annually prices also fell by 0.7%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.4% to £235,298 an annual growth rate of 2.2%.

Away from the stats, the accepted tensions between a council’s economic development department and its planning arm were in evidence in the region this month.

Firstly, planning officers at Uttlesford District Council recommended proposals to increase the passenger cap at Stansted Airport to 43m pa. Plans for a new £150m arrivals terminal – part of a £600m plan to increase capacity and facilities – were put on hold last year.

The deal included up to £19.2m on community projects including sound insulation and homeowner relocation, as well as more than £15m for transport projects including work on Junction 8 on the M11. But the council’s special planning committee rejected the scheme.

Then in Suffok, a Scottish Power renewables project to build two wind farms, a cable route through Thorpeness, as well as three substations in Friston, was vetoed by councillors who cited concerns about damage to the Suffolk coast. A final recommendation to the secretary of state is not expected until early 2021.

In Essex, the proposed £50m development of Seaway Car Park in Southend was delayed after councillors deferred their decision on planning permission. The development would see a cinema, restaurants and a new car park built on the site.

More positively in Norfolk, Great Yarmouth Borough council has £2.5m in place for a market redevelopment project aimed at replacing the existing facilities on the Market Place with a timber-framed covered hall and new stalls. The council hopes the balance of the £3.6m investment could come from the government’s new Future High Streets Fund.

Also in Norfolk, Norwich-based gift and toy chain Hawkin’s Bazaar has entered administration, putting c180 jobs at risk. Administrators will continue to trade from the firm’s 19 shops in the hope that a buyer can be found.

Regional interventions were in the spotlight this month after it emerged that a law company set up by Central Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire county councils and one other local authority has recorded a £1.2m loss. The firm, LGSS Law, is owned by the three councils and offers public sector legal services. It is understood that an overdraft offered by Cambridgeshire County Council has been largely drawn down.

The East of England third in the 2018 growth league, Peterborough has the second fastest growing local economy in the UK, Thurrock declines and a mixed performance from the region’s LEPs

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Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its 2018 full year estimate of economic activity by UK country, region and local area using gross domestic product.

The figures showed the EE economy grew by 1.7% in 2018, down from the 2017 growth rate of 3.8%. This placed the EE third (2017 ranking first) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

The UK and England growth rate in 2018 was 1.4%. Growth in Wales was 1.3%, Scotland grew by 0.9% and the Northern Ireland economy shrank by 0.5%.

London topped the 2018 table with growth of 2.0% whilst Northern Ireland was at the bottom.

Within the region, the Peterborough economy grew the fastest at 9%, followed by Bedford at 6.6% and Heart of Essex at 4.3%. In UK terms, the highest annual growth of the 179 local areas was in Falkirk at 10.5%, Peterborough was ranked second.

Four areas of the region saw their GDP decline in 2018. Thurrock recorded the biggest drop at 6.5%, followed by Breckland and South Norfolk at 2.7% and Essex Haven Gateway at 2%. In UK terms, the lowest annual growth of subnational areas was in Mid and East Antrim at -10.1%.

GDP per head growth of 7.8% to £36,014 was seen in Peterborough although at £37,499 Hertfordshire topped the region. GDP per head fell by 7.6% in Thurrock to £27,526 but despite growing by 1.0%, Southend recorded the regional lowest at £18,902.

In terms of UK extremes, GDP per head was £395,309 in Camden and the City of London and £15,034 in Ards and North Down. These figures are a guide and are influenced by commuter flows.

In 2018, key drivers of the EE economy were professional/scientific /technical activities at 6%, arts/entertainment/recreation at 5% and transportation /storage up by 3%. Those areas that did not perform well were agriculture which dropped by 6%, mining down by 4% and electricity/gas supply down by 2%. Overall the services sector grew by 2.1%, construction by 1.4% and production by 0.7%.

The 2018 performance of the region’s five enterprise partnerships was also highlighted by the ONS. Of the UK’s 45 development bodies, Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP was ranked 1st in the UK with growth of 2.8%, Cambridge and Peterborough was ranked 3rd in the UK (2017 ranking 8th) with growth of 2.4%. Semlep moved up the rankings from 30th to 8th with growth of 2.1%, but with slower growth, the region’s other three LEPs fell down the rankings, with Hertfordshire slipping slightly from 1st to 9th, New Anglia moving from 25th to 36th and the South East LEP (which includes Essex) dropping 21 places to 34th.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the EE increased by 3,000 to 102,000 between August and October 2019; the increase of 0.1% took the overall rate to 3.2%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.3% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 6.1% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 78.2% in the EE. UK employment was estimated at 76.2%.

EE average property prices fell by 0.1% during October 2019 to £293,928, which took annual growth to 0.3%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.7% to £232,944, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

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

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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%.

A substantial investment in tomatoes in East Anglia, dragons in Cambridgeshire and a big jump in unemployment

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Unemployment in the East of England increased by 17,000 to 109,000 between June and August, the increase of 0.5% was the highest in England and took the overall rate to 3.4%.

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

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 78.6% in the EE. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

EE average property prices increased by 0.3% to £294,192, which took annual growth to an anaemic 0.1%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

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

Development

Two giant greenhouses costing £120m are to be built next to sewage works to grow millions of tomatoes and bring 360 agricultural jobs.

Work on the UK’s largest greenhouses has begun near Norwich and near Bury St Edmunds. The two greenhouses will cover 72 acres and could produce 1 in 10 of domestically grown tomatoes.

Britain consumes 500,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year but c80% are imported largely from the Netherlands and Spain. Heat will be pumped into the greenhouses from the nearby Anglian Water sewage works.

Scheduled for completion in autumn 2020, the projects will create 360 permanent jobs, 120 seasonal roles and cost £120m.

A study by Renaissance of the East Anglia Fisheries suggests government seed funding could pull in the private-sector investment needed to reverse decades of decline in coastal communities and add £32m to the region’s economy.

The report recommends investment in Lowestoft as a regional port; forcing boats to land their catch in the UK; and building a pontoon at Felixstowe. This could lead to the creation of 300 jobs and at least 25 vessels being added to the UK’s fleet in the southern North Sea.

Leaving the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy could mean a seven-fold increase in the value of quota fish stocks caught by UK vessels in the southern North Sea. The recommendations are supported by Norfolk and Suffolk county councils, the local fishing industry, New Anglia LEP and Associated British Ports.

Analysis by the BBC has found workers living in coastal communities in Great Britain earn on average £1,600 less per year than those living inland. In seaside towns median wages were £22,104 compared with £23,785 in non-coastal areas.

Transport

It is unusual, but some infrastructure projects are completed on time, and some are even finished a year early. The new A14 Huntingdon bypass in Cambridgeshire was not expected to be finished until late 2020, but drivers will be able to use it from this December.

The full £1.5bn 21-mile project, which includes widening the A1 between Brampton and Alconbury, widening the existing A14 between Swavesey and Milton and improving five other junctions, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Drivers travelling between Cambridge and Huntingdon will save about 20 minutes on their journeys.

In the air, Norwich Airport’s plans to treble passenger numbers from 520,000 to 1.4m by 2045 have cleared their first hurdle at Norwich City Council. Rigby Group, which also owns Exeter and Coventry airports, upgraded the terminal building earlier this year and now wants a 500m expansion of the main runway to the east and the relocation of the air traffic control tower.

A new ‘Dragons’ Den’ style panel chaired by Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer has been set up to hear pitches for a share of £50m of public money managed by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Business Board.

Officially called the Entrepreneurs Assessment Panel, bids for Local Growth Funding from local business leaders for capital investment aimed at growth and pitches for new incubator buildings, roads or infrastructure are expected.

To qualify for funding, applicants will need to demonstrate how their project will deliver on one or more of the priorities set out in the Local Industrial Strategy for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Strategy which was launched in July.

The Board is rebuilding the ‘agency’s brand’ after its predecessor; the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, went into voluntary liquidation in December 2017 after the National Audit Office found that the governance of the LEP had been substandard.

The liquidation of the LEP sparked a wider review of the governance of all 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Huge sums are not always needed to push economic development. A £600,000 visitor centre has been proposed at the most-visited attraction in the region. Needham Lake is a 32 acre site comprising several small islands and wildlife habitats. It has been owned and managed by Mid Suffolk District since 1980 and last year had 376,000 visitors. It helps of course, that entry to the former gravel pit is free.

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

Reading Time: 4 minutesThe 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%.

The East of England one of only three regions to see a drop in average earnings and East Anglia a transition region under a new EU definition

Reading Time: 3 minutesGrowth in the East of England was 1.2% in the year to June 2019, which ranked the region tenth (out of twelve UK ‘regions’) according to estimates from ESCoE. The drop from the previous quarter’s growth of 1.6% suggests the region’s economy is contracting. At 2.3%, London had the best performance with Northern Ireland at 1% the worst. The national growth rate for the same period was 1.5%. With the UK economy contracting by 0.2% in the quarter, falling growth in the East of England reflects this and is similar to other regional economies which have also shrunk.

Unemployment in the East of England increased by 1,000 to 95,000 between April and June, leaving the rate unchanged at 2.9%, the joint second lowest rate in the UK. The South West had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.7%, the North East had the highest at 5.3% with the UK rate at 3.9%. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.5% which compared with the East of England at 79.2%, UK rate of 76.1% is the joint highest since comparative records began in 1971.

In June, the East of England was one of only three regions to see a drop in average earnings; from £674 to £653 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £831; the North East had the lowest at £537. In the UK average earnings grew by 3.7% or by 1.8% after inflation.

The East of England’s average property price ticked up during the month, the 0.5% rise to £291,370 meant annually prices increased by 0.7%. In comparison UK prices grew by 0.7% to £230,292 during June which left the annual growth rate unchanged at 0.9%.

On transport, Uttlesford District Council has voted to revisit plans approved by the previous Conservative administration to increase Stansted’s passenger volume to 43m per year from 38m. In June, the government published a Tourism Sector Deal including the opportunity for regions to bid to become one of five Tourism Zones. The zones would focus on increasing productivity in the visitor economy by investing in skills and extending the tourism season. Visit East of England said thousands of jobs could be put in jeopardy by the new delay to expand passenger numbers at the airport.

Four hundred jobs have been lost at 2 Sisters Food Group’s site in Witham, Essex, with 102 staff redeployed to other sites in Norfolk and Suffolk. 2 Sisters supplies chickens to most of the UK’s major supermarkets.

On infrastructure, regional transport body, England’s Economic Heartland, has recommended that the Government invests in 11 road schemes from Swindon to Cambridge at a cost of more than £700m. The road schemes include, widening the Bedford western bypass, the Aylesbury Eastern Link Road and the A10, Ely to Cambridge. Also recommended are junction changes on the A10, Ely to Cambridge and a new junction at the A1139 University Centre, Peterborough. The recommendations form part of the Oxford to Cambridge arc strategy – as outlined by the National Infrastructure Commission – which also includes the re-opening of the previously closed Oxford to Cambridge railway and building 1m new homes.

A report by an All-Party Parliamentary Group (‘APPG’) of MPs which looks at Post-Brexit Funding for the nations and regions has found that the UK would receive additional EU funding in the 2021-27 spending round. Three additional sub-regions, Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and Tees Valley & Durham are likely to slip below the threshold of 75% EU average GDP per head that would qualify them for ‘less developed region’ status, but no region of the East of England has yet fallen below this level.

Additionally, 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 sub-regions are likely to slip below the threshold of 100% EU average GDP per head, qualifying them for ‘transition region’ status. East Anglia falls into this category, as well as East Wales, Greater Manchester, Leicestershire, Rutland & Northamptonshire, Outer London South, North Yorkshire and South Western Scotland. It is not clear how much extra funding these areas would have received from the EU, but €50 per head over the next EU spending round would equate to £560m.

The UK government has promised to replace EU funding to the regions with a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund. If the new sub regions are added, the APPG calculates this amounts to c£1.8bn pa, on top of the c£2.2bn pa already committed as part of Local Growth Fund. Integrating the Local Growth Fund into the UK Shared Prosperity Fund could be problematic. The Local Growth Fund allocates funding to LEPs via competitive bidding whereas the allocation of EU funds uses a fixed formula. How the Shared Prosperity Fund will mesh with other pots like the City Deals is yet to be determined.

The East of England has the second lowest unemployment rate in the UK, the region receives the least amount of growth funding and the Cambridge and Peterborough industrial strategy outlines how the Oxford – Cambridge arc is beginning to shape up

Reading Time: 3 minutesUnemployment in the East of England decreased by 9,000 to 91,000 between March and May, the decrease of 0.3% to 2.8% meant the region had the second lowest rate in the UK. At 2.6% the South West of England had the lowest rate and at 5.6% the North East had the highest rate in the country. The UK unemployment rate stands at 3.8%.

The East of England’s average property price increased by 0.7% to £291,239 during the month which uplifted the annual growth rate to 1.0%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.1% to £229,431 during May which reduced the annual growth rate to 1.2%.

Cambridge and Peterborough Business Board (formerly Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP) has become one of the first regions to agree a local industrial strategy with the government. The 87 page document was developed by the Business Board in collaboration with local businesses and was signed off by Business Secretary, Greg Clark.

The strategy included launching; a new trade & investment service which will co-ordinate government support and a service targeting inward investment, a new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Growth Company, creating at least four new ‘Innovation Launchpads’ focused on key sectors such as agri-tech, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing innovation, and establishing a new Skills, Talent and Apprenticeship hub.

The plan is one of four connected Local Industrial Strategies covering the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, a plan from the National Infrastructure Commission which is intended to safeguard the booming economies of the UK’s science and technology hub. The Arc will bring the large scale development of homes, offices and roads across central England and the re-opening of the previously closed Oxford to Cambridge railway. The other 3 areas are Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the South East Midlands.

In its review this month of the 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – the private sector-led partnerships between businesses and local public sector bodies that support local economic growth – the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons found that from 2015-16 to date; £9.1bn of taxpayers’ money has been awarded to LEPs through three tranches of Growth Deals. The East of England, with three LEPs, has received the least with £703m, London, with one LEP, has received £435m and the north of England, with 11 LEPs, has received most of the funding at £3.4bn (38%),

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government considers the population of an area as well as the strength of the LEP’s strategic economic plans and projects when deciding Growth Deal allocations. There are no overlapping LEP areas in the East of England which means these LEPs will be able to bid for funds from the Government’s proposed Shared Prosperity Fund, that will replace EU structural funding after Brexit.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has received £291m, the 11th highest in England since 2015, Hertfordshire £265m and the Cambridge and Peterborough Business Board has received £147m. The South East LEP, which includes Essex, was awarded £591m, the third highest award in England. The Ministry does not to evaluate the Local Growth Fund which means it has no understanding of the impact spending through LEPs has on local economic growth. The latest growth figures for the region from ESCoE showed growth at 1.9% which compared with the UK average of 1.5%.

The 24 Enterprise Zones designated in England in 2011 to improve economic growth created 17,307 jobs by 2017 instead of the forecast 54,000 jobs by 2015. BBC-commissioned research conducted by think tank charity, Centre for Cities, also found that in two areas the number of jobs had fallen. Enterprise zones offered cheaper business rates, superfast broadband and lower levels of planning control. According to the research 1,057 jobs were created in the Harlow Enterprise Zone, the sixth best performing zone in England, and 269 jobs in the New Anglia Enterprise Zone which was less successful.

The cost of the scheme is disputed, with The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government claiming £101m, £215m less than the BBC’s estimate of £316m+. The Ministry also disputes the methodology used in the research. A further 24 Zones were created in 2016 and 2017.