The State of Britain

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%.