Richard Wright
Clare Burnett

Member Article

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce on Centre for Cities report and GDP growth

The recent reports concerning GDP and the Centre for Cities have exposed a harsh reality for Northern business communities.

Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull and Bradford were in the bottom 10 cities for private sector job creation, and only Leeds ranked 9th in these terms.

The size of Leeds’ economy (£55 billion) however was greater than that of Manchester (£51 billion) and both were greater than the entirety of Wales, which came in at £47 billion.

The article also questioned the place of London in the UK’s economic recovery. The city accounts for around 19% of jobs, 21% of businesses and 25% of economic output.

The report also said the UK’s tentative economic recovery has been one very much led by the capital.

Commenting on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 0.7 per cent in Q4 of 2013, Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce (pictured) said:

“There are some positives in these latest economic output indicators for the UK which we hope will have a knock-on effect for businesses in the Sheffield City Region.

“Yes economic output nationally was up 1.9 per cent in 2013, but this is still 1.3 per cent below the pre-recession peak in 2008. Yes, the services sector is 1.3 per cent above peak levels, but manufacturing is 8.2 per cent lower and construction is still 11.2 per cent down.

“The biggest worry is that this growth is not translating into improvements in the trade deficit and our national debt continues to grow. This can indicate short-term growth and we must change it.

“More locally it also gives an indication of why cities such as Leeds and Manchester, which have strong service sectors, are currently out-performing areas like Sheffield, which relies on advanced manufacturing as a key driver for growth. I would expect us to show better long-term growth as we build on our strengths.

“The recent Centre for Cities report does not make good reading for Sheffield either, at best, and places the city mid-table compared to other cities in the UK. The 2012 figures place Sheffield in the bottom half of the table for indicators, such as employment rates, business start-ups, qualifications and earnings, although I do think we started to address some of those in 2013.

“The big question is whether we are doing the right things to address the issues? There are certainly plenty of opportunities but we will have to invest wisely.

“We have to look at where sustainable growth is coming from. We have to question whether past investments from European money in the city region have been wise ones. We have to become masters of our destiny.

“Not enough has been spent on generating long-term wealth creation which will allow Sheffield to create and deliver its own successful growth plan to alter the dynamics and move the city higher up the performance standings.

“It’s not surprising that increasing the private sector is a core objective of the draft Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Plan but to achieve that we are going to have to do things differently. We can do it if we work together. Put aside any regional disagreements caused by political boundaries and be single minded about what will deliver that growth.

“The Centre for Cities report did highlight that Sheffield had the largest employment rate increase in the UK at 2.5 per cent from July 2012 to June 2013, compared with the same period the year before, but at 67.5 per cent this is still below national average.

“Yes, the UK economy is picking up, but Sheffield needs to make sure it is part of that recovery and not be left behind playing catch-up. We need to see more inward investment, more exports from the city region, more business funding, more expansions into new markets, more incentive to take on staff and ultimately more ambition from everyone to make this city great again.”

The full Centre for Cities report can be seen here.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Clare Burnett .

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