The State of Britain

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

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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. After Jaywick, eight areas of Blackpool are the most deprived in England with an area of Hull the most deprived part of Yorkshire and The Humber (ranked 21st). The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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