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Focus on Manufacturing

UK Powerhouse: A nation divided

North and Midlands trail behind faster growing Southern economies

Milton Keynes has overtaken Cambridge in the league table of fastest growing city economies in the UK, according to our new UK Powerhouse report.

Our quarterly study with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) provides an estimate of GVA (gross value added) growth and job creation within 45 of the UK’s largest cities, 12 months ahead of the Government’s official figures.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the report reveals that Milton Keynes’ economy grew by 2.6% in the year to the end of Q2 2017, on the back of its booming technology sector and its track record for encouraging start-ups. It also tops the league table for job creation after employment levels grew by 1.4% over the last 12 months.

The slowest growing area in the study is Middlesbrough which saw output growth of 1.1%, with annual employment levels rising by just 0.3%.

The report reveals that not one of the top 10 cities in the league table are based in the North of England or the Midlands.

The weak performance of the production sector was reflected in lower growth rates for cities which rely more on these industries. In Birmingham, a centre of British automotive manufacturing, annual GVA growth slowed from 2.1% in the first quarter to 1.6% in Q2 as car sales have dropped markedly. Manchester fell by seven places, from 9th to 16th in the league table for GVA growth.

Highlighting the growing and vital role technology plays in the wider UK economy, the report finds that in fast-growing Milton Keynes, technology-related GVA increased by 24% between 2012 and 2015.

It is further predicted that the UK-wide number of jobs in the technology sector will increase by 24% in the next 10 years. However, the report raises concerns that the true potential might not be realised.

To ensure all cities benefit from the available opportunities in the tech sector, the report recommends a holistic approach and makes a number of recommendations. These include:

  • Tackling the shortage of highly-skilled employees by encouraging more women to enter the industry 
  • Investing and opening more ‘code academies’ to increase the number of people with the necessary skills in programming languages 
  • Establishing a plan that allows the existing data flows between the UK and the rest of Europe to continue before the UK officially leaves the EU
  • Expanding the Start Up Loans scheme for new business ideas by providing financing deals which offer higher amounts on lower interest rates
  • Changing the current UK entrepreneur tax relief scheme as it encourages small firms to sell out early and inhibits the number of businesses reaching unicorn size
  • Funding knowledge sharing and skill building platforms, including events for new businesses to network and discuss ideas with successful technology entrepreneurs

Download our latest report at irwinmitchell.com/ukpowerhouse.

Published: 9 November 2017

Focus on Manufacturing - Edition 6

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