The State of Britain

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%.