The State of Britain

The South East nears the bottom of the 2018 growth league, Medway and Milton Keynes the regional stars, a poor year for East Surrey and Coast to Capital LEP

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Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its 2018 full year estimate of economic activity by UK country, region and local area using gross domestic product.

The figures showed the SE economy grew by 0.6% in 2018, down from the 2017 growth rate of 1.2%. This placed the SE eleventh (2017 ranking also eleventh) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

The UK and England growth rate in 2018 was 1.4%. Growth in Wales was 1.3%, Scotland grew by 0.9% and the Northern Ireland economy shrank by 0.5%.

London topped the 2018 table with growth of 2.0% whilst Northern Ireland was at the bottom.

Within the region, the Medway economy grew the fastest at 5.1%, followed by North Hampshire at 3.1% and Milton Keynes at 2.8%. Across the UK, the highest annual growth of the 179 local areas was in Falkirk at 10.5%.

Seven areas of the region saw their GDP decline in 2018. East Surrey recorded the biggest drop at 5.1%, followed by East Sussex at 1.6% and Central Hampshire at 1.3%. In UK terms, the lowest annual growth of sub national areas was in Mid and East Antrim at -10.1%.

GDP per head growth of 4.9% to £22,829 was seen in Medway although at £58,393 Milton Keynes topped the region. Indeed Milton Keynes, ranked sixth, was one of four areas outside of London in the UK top 10 GDP per head, Berkshire also featured and was placed seventh. GDP per head fell by 5.6% in East Surrey to £37,429 but East Sussex was the regional lowest at £18,852.

In terms of UK extremes, GDP per head was £395,309 in Camden and the City of London and £15,034 in Ards and North Down. These figures are a guide and are influenced by commuter flows.

In 2018, key drivers of the SE economy were information/communication at 5.3%, professional/scientific/technical activities at 5% and transportation/storage up by 3%. Those areas that did not perform well were mining which dropped by 15%, water supply services down by 7%, and electricity supply and services declined by 6%. Overall the services sector grew by 1.1% whilst construction fell by 0.8% and production by 2.2%.

The 2018 performance of the region’s seven enterprise partnerships was also highlighted by the ONS. Of the UK’s 45 development bodies, Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP was ranked 1st in the UK with growth of 2.8%, Oxfordshire was ranked 17th in the UK (2017 ranking 39th) with growth of 1.7%. Buckinghamshire Thames Valley moved up the rankings from 44th to 30th with growth of 0.6%, Solent was placed 28th (was 41st) and Thames Valley Berkshire moved up to 20th from 28th. With slower or negative growth, the region’s other three LEPs fell down the rankings, with the South East LEP slipping from 13th to 34th, Enterprise M3 moving from 19th to 25th and Coast to Capital dropping three places to 39th.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the SE increased by 14,000 to 149,000 between August and October 2019; the increase of 0.3% took the overall rate to 3.1%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.3% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 6.1% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 79.4% in the SE. UK employment was estimated at 76.2%.

SE average property prices fell by 0.8% during October 2019 to £323,438, which took the annual fall to 0.3%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.7% to £232,944, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.