The State of Britain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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