Y&H’s film and TV industries aiming for critical mass, regional unemployment drops significantly and railway woes

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Unemployment in Y&H decreased by 28,000 to 108,000 between June and August, the fall of 1% was the best in the UK which left the overall rate at 4.0%.

The South West continued to record the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.9%. The highest rate was 5.8% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 74.0% in Y&H. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

Y&H average property prices increased by 0.2% to £165,767, which took annual growth to 1.0%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

Analysis by the BBC has found workers living in seaside areas in Great Britain earn on average £1,600 less per year than those living inland. Of the 650 constituencies in the UK, wages in Beverley and Holderness fell the eighth fastest.

Overall, in coastal constituencies median wages were £22,104 compared with £23,785 in non-coastal areas.

The ONS’s Personal Well-being (or Happiness) Index has ranked Y&H eighth out of the 12 UK ‘regions’ in terms of an improvement in life satisfaction since the last survey. The Northern Irish were the happiest folk in the UK with Londoners the most miserable.

Development

Channel 4 will have c250 of its 850-strong workforce in Leeds by next year after the broadcaster officially opened a new base in the city. The firm will broadcast a new daily lunchtime show live from Leeds, and C4 News will regularly be co-presented from the city.

Channel 4 chose Leeds over Birmingham and Manchester despite the pull of Salford’s MediaCityUK. The channel’s heads of drama and sport, plus other commissioning editors, are now in the city.

The broadcaster plans to spend £250m a year outside London increasing the proportion of programmes it makes outside the capital from 35% to 50%.

Given the above, there is a sense that Y&H’s film and TV industries can achieve critical mass. ITV has more than 650 staff in Leeds, a number of independent production companies have followed C4 and opened offices in the city plus the National Film and Television School is opening a branch in January.

Screen Yorkshire has also picked winners like Peaky Blinders, but although this is largely shot in Yorkshire, Birmingham has pinched some screen tourism linked to the show.

The gold standard in screen tourism has been set by Game of Thrones, which has brought £251m into the Northern Ireland economy since production began in 2010. Figures from Tourism NI suggest that 350,000 fans visit Northern Ireland every year and spend at least £50m. Screen Yorkshire needs to tick this last box.

The region will also benefit from the extra £90m the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has added to the Cultural Development Fund, which is for arts, culture, heritage and the creative industries in towns and cities outside London.

Grimsby deal well out of the Cultural Development Fund last year, now £18.5m has been allocated to York’s National Railway Museum.

Also on culture, The National Lottery Heritage fund has confirmed £13.6m towards the £27.4m project to move Hull’s last sidewinder trawler to a dry dock as part of a new visitor attraction.

Hull City Council is match funding £10m with a further £4.3m for the redevelopment of Queens Gardens. The Queens Garden’s site was once the world’s largest dock and will now be used to connect the three sites involved in the maritime history project.

Hull has also become the first city in the UK which has full fibre broadband. The seven-year £85m investment programme was carried out by local firm Kcom. The firm claims that £469m of incremental economic activity has occurred as a result.

Jobs

The government will open talks with other bidders for British Steel after failing to agree terms with Ataer Holding during the exclusivity period which started in August. There are 3,000 direct jobs in Scunthorpe with an estimated 20,000 indirect jobs linked to the site. The Financial Times reported that Network Rail, which buys c100,000 tonnes of track from British Steel, is considering cutting back its orders amid doubts over the firm’s future.

The Pennine Foods factory in Sheffield which makes ready meals has began consulting on closure. About 600 jobs are at risk at the facility which is part of the 2 Sisters Food Group and is described by the firm as loss making.

Doncaster Council has agreed a draft budget which details plans to find £16.8m in savings in the next four years. Consequently 80 council jobs would be cut along with 15 in children’s services.

Lincoln based building firm, Simons Group, which specialised in retail, healthcare, and commercial projects across the UK,  has gone into administration. Administrators said up to 124 job losses are expected

Transport

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s Independent review ‘HS2 North’ was introduced in Parliament this month by the Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group.

The key recommendation of the report is the establishment of HS2 North, a private sector special purpose vehicle modelled on the Olympic Delivery Authority which would integrate HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

HS2 North would be arms-length from government, contracting with private sector delivery partners and Network Rail, and overseen by Transport for the North.

Whilst no one doubts that HS2 will bring significant benefits to the Northern economy, this report, and a second Northern Powerhouse Partnership report, ‘HS2 and the Economy of the North’, identifies that further detailed work needs to be undertaken to pin down the economic benefits that the new line would bring.

Separately, CBI East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, London, the North East and North West regional directors also urged the government to build the HS2 rail project in full.

However, a paper by the Adam Smith Institute, also released this month, claims that HS2 will deliver limited benefits and that some Northern cities could lose direct trains to London.

It recommends instead, upgrading existing routes with new signalling, doubling the number of tracks, reopening mothballed lines, building new sections of railway and targeting bottlenecks at key junctions.

Also on the trains, the government is considering whether the management of Northern Rail should be taken into public hands. The Department for Transport confirmed it was developing contingency plans with either a new short-term management contract with Northern or the Operator of Last Resort (‘OLR’) (effectively the Government).

The OLR is currently in charge of London North East Railway, the East Coast Mainline intercity franchise. Northern is a large, more complex commuter network, so the government is likely to take-on a more supervisory role, with Northern still able to run day-to-day services and take the blame.

In a bad month for Northern, politicians demanded that passengers still having to use the 1980s-built rail-buses called Pacer trains should be offered reduced fares. Northern had planned to withdraw them all by the end of this year but some will be retained into 2020 as a result of delays in the construction and delivery of new trains from manufacturer CAF.

The Pacers, a joint venture between British Rail and British Leyland, were originally constructed from the body of a bus and were intended to have a maximum lifespan of 20 years. In fairness though the Pacer is a survivor, other British Leyland vehicles from the 1980s like the Austin Maxi and Morris Marina have long gone.

An upgrade to the line between Sheffield and Manchester announced in 2018 and designed to improve journey times by ten minutes has been delayed. The Hope Valley line will now not be upgraded until 2023, allowing journey times to be cut from 50 to 40 minutes.

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