The State of Britain

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

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

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

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.

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.

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%.