Yorkshire ‘still lagging behind’ the south for economic growth, new report claims

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YORKSHIRE is still lagging behind London and the south east for economic growth, a new report from a think tank has said.

A new economic growth indicator, designed to highlight the most competitive economic growth across the UK, puts Hull, Bradford, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham among the worst ten per cent performers for growth over the last five years.

Comparative Economies used a range of official figures including employment, income and productivity since 2007 to compile the measure, which highlighted London and the south east as top performers while Yorkshire and the Humber was the worst for competitive growth.

The research also ranked Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in Leeds, Sheffield, York and the Humber among the worst for Gross Value Added (GVA) growth.

Lead researcher Jonathan Walker said: “The economic might of London and the south east is still very clear. Much of the economic recovery has been driven in the south east, and that masks that certain northern areas aren’t performing quite as well.”

The think tank is calling on the Government to give LEPs greater freedom to allocate their funds freedom and target investment where it is needed.

Last week it was reported that Britain’s economy was now bigger than it pre-financial crisis peak, after official data showed gross domestic product increased by 0.8pc in the second quarter of the year.

Dr Iain Clacher, associate professor at Leeds University Business School, said the new measurement needed to be “carefully interpreted” as they did not take into account the very latest GVA figures.

Although it is “no surprise” that London and the south east is largely booming, London was largely sheltered from the financial crisis as result of the banking sector bailout, he said.

“The other problem with these figures is there is a large lag in their reporting, and things will have improved again since the data only extends as far as 2012,” he added.

Peter Holmes, the Yorkshire regional chairman of the Institute of Directors, said that greater flexibility for LEPs would be applauded, but he added, Yorkshire businesses don’t feel that they are “the poor relations” to those in the south.

Comparing productivity in Yorkshire to that of London and the south east was problematic as the two are made up of differing types of businesses, he added.

Hull was ranked 126th out of 130 UK regions in the think tank’s Better Growth Indices measure - the worst Yorkshire local authority.

Coun Martin Mancey, portfolio holder for energy city, at Hull Council, said: “This is disappointing news but these are lag indicators reflecting a position over a year before the official report is produced, however since then Hull has experienced a phenomenal few months.

“The city is in the midst of celebrating a series of positive announcements and developments which are set to deliver a massive jobs boost teamed with continuous economic growth.”

He said the awarding of UK City of Culture for 2017 would be worth an estimated £60m to the visitor economy in 2017, and £184m over the next five years, “proving our city is most definitely on the up.”

Recent investment in the city included £310m from Siemens, promising the creation of 1,000 jobs, and health company RB announced a £100m investment for a Centre of Scientific Excellence, securing over 1,200 jobs.

A spokesperson for Leeds City Region LEP said: “Leeds City Region, like much of the North, is emerging from a deep recession however the latest available evidence shows that growth is returning.

“According to our own Quarterly Economic Survey and other recent data, business confidence is returning to the City Region, the number of people in employment is now well above pre-recession levels, and investor confidence is picking up real pace with over £2.5bn of investment currently in the pipeline.

“We are confident that growth is back on the agenda, and that the additional freedoms, powers and funding we have recently secured through our Local Growth Deal with government – the largest settlement of any LEP in the country – will give us the tools to accelerate growth yet further.“

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Yorkshire is benefiting from the industrial strategy which is giving manufacturers like Tata Steel and Marshall Advanced Composites, the confidence to invest, grow and create jobs.

“And we are moving power away from Whitehall which is why we have signed Growth Deals with the Local Enterprise Partnerships because they are best placed to drive growth locally with their knowledge of the local economy.”