Tagged: Mark Stephenson

Survey claims North-East is worst place nationally for empty shops

Falling incomes and the growth of the internet are major factors for almost one in five shops in northern English cities being shut, experts believe.

Figures released by The Local Data Company (LDC) show that businesses in the North are struggling in terms of empty shop numbers.

The LDC states that the North-East is the worst area nationally for shop vacancy rates, with 18.8 per cent of shops empty in the second half of last year.

This represents a slight improvement on 2013, when more than 20 per cent of shops stood empty.

The LDC found that 20 per cent of North-East shops, or nearly 10,000 outlets, have been empty for more than three years.

In comparison, one in ten businesses in southern cities are standing empty.

London has the fewest empty shops, with 8.7 per cent of shop vacancies in the second half of 2014, representing a fall on the previous year of 0.4 per cent.

Nationally the rate of shop vacancies stood at 13.3 per cent at the end of last year representing a fall from a peak of 14.6 per cent in February 2012.

Mark Stephenson, policy and research manager for the North-East Chamber of Commerce, said:

It is concerning to see the North-East at the top of this table.

 “Sadly, this is something that is happening in all but the busiest shopping destinations because of the advent of the internet and e-commerce.

“That said, many of our members in the retail sector have reported strong performance, so this is not a simple straightforward issue to resolve.

“It’s also worth remembering that incomes have been falling for many years and are only now just now picking up.

“The purchasing ability of the man on the street has been hit, which will impact on the high street.”

The North-West had topped the charts for the number of shop vacancies since 2008 but it has now been toppled by the North-East.

The list of top ten worst town centres nationally for vacant space contains Hartlepool at number three, with a vacancy rate of 27.3 per cent.

Source – Northern Echo, 04 Feb 2015

Northumberland is dying on its feet

A stark warning has been issued about the future of Northumberland, which has been described as a political no man’s land that is dying on its feet.

It was delivered by the Labour MP for Wansbeck, Ian Lavery, after official figures revealed it to be one of the worst-performing economic areas in the whole of Britain.

Its perilous state was shown in the ‘gross value-added’ (GVA) statistics for 2013, which detail the value of wages and profits from goods and services produced.

For Northumberland, the figure is just £13,481 per head of population, the fifth worst in Britain, and dwarfed by the highest figure of £135,888 in inner London west.

Mr Lavery said at the root of the worrying figures was the fact that traditional heavy industries like mining have never been properly replaced, while the county struggles to compete with Scotland, which gets much more Government financial help.

“We have some great small businesses here but they are not on the same scale as mining,” he said.

“We’re a political no-man’s land. I really fear for the future. People need to be encouraged to invest here and it should be made a special case. It’s dying on its feet.”

His comments were echoed by fellow Northumberland MP Blyth Valley’s Ronnie Campbell, who said the figures showed how the county had been abandoned by successive governments of all colours.

“To put it right we need to be made a special case,” he said.

“We don’t want to be a basket case. They have to come up with a new Barnett formula which benefits this region.”

There had been talk of scrapping the Barnett formula, a local authority funding mechanism which favoured Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when drawn up 34 years ago to provide a boost to economies there, which were then struggling.

However, in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum, in what was seen as an attempt to ensure a ‘No’ vote victory, all three major parties vowed to continue it.

Mr Campbell said as a result of the extra cash, Scotland can offer more inducements to new companies to invest there.

It’s only 50 miles up the road. When the Barnett formula was drawn up, it was done to help Scotland, which was struggling. Now it isn’t and we are, it should be redrawn to help us.”

North East Chamber of Commerce Policy and Research Manager Mark Stephenson said:

For many years we have campaigned about the lack of fairness of the Barnett formula, which seems to be having an increasingly negative impact on the GVA figures.

“Northumberland has many excellent businesses and a thriving tourism offer, but it is one of the counties that has been adversely impacted by the public sector cuts.”

Meanwhile Mr Lavery said: “When people talk about the North East they think of what Newcastle and Sunderland are getting, they think of Nissan and the Tyne and Wear Metro.

“But Northumberland is a million miles away from this.

“The best thing about this county is the resilience of its people.

“They will deliver if given the opportunity; they just need equal opportunities.”

Across the region the GVA per head stands at £17,381, compared with £40,215 in London. Only Wales, at £16,893, and Northern Ireland, at £17,948, have lower figures.

Tyneside performs best in the North East, with a GVA per head of £20,514, although this is still some way below the UK average of £23,294.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  12 Dec 2014

Concern over rising unemployment figures in the North East

Fears that the region was “out of sight and out of mind” for the Government have been voiced after the latest jobless figures revealed the only place in the UK where unemployment was going up was the North East.

The overall national rate has dropped to 6.6% in the three months to April, the lowest since January 2009, causing Chancellor George Osborne to hail the news as an important step towards the goal of full employment, while Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “Britain is bouncing back.”

Yet the figures they were celebrating, published by the Office for National Statistics, revealed unemployment in the North East had risen 6,000 to 131,000 from February to April, putting the jobless rate here at 9.8%, again the highest in the UK and by some distance.

Chi Onwurah, Labour’s Newcastle Central MP, said: “They are talking like it’s mission complete but the fact is the North East is still seeing unemployment on the rise.

“It shows that the North East is out of sight and out of mind of this Coalition Government.”

The next lowest figures in the UK are Yorkshire and Humber with 8.2% and the West Midlands with 7.5%. Even Wales, which has suffered economically like the North East because of the collapse of traditional industries like mining, boasts an unemployment rate of 6.6%, the same as the national average.

And while the Government highlighted the news that the number of people in employment in the region had gone up 15,000 from February to April to 1,206,000, there was bad news on the wages front too.

The ONS figures showed the average salary of those in work in the North East has fallen 7.3% year-on-year with women particularly hardest hit with a 10.7% drop. Meanwhile the current CPI rate of inflation is 1.8%.

Mark Stephenson of the North East Chamber of Commerce concentrated on the rise in employment rates in the region and the fall in the claimant count.

He said: “It’s great to see North East employment estimates rising at the fastest rate in the UK for the second consecutive month. Hopefully we are starting to see a trend develop that will see our region make ground on other parts of the UK that experienced these rises earlier in the economic recovery.”

However he added: “The long term measures for employment and the claimant count are positive signs, albeit the total number of unemployed in the North East remains high – especially at the younger end of the labour market. The challenge isn’t abating and casts a shadow over the positive figures we see elsewhere.”

> Bloody hell – where does he buy his rose-tinted glasses ?

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  12 June 2014

South Tyneside jobless figure falls (maybe…)

The jobless total has fallen again in South Tyneside, reversing last month’s upward trend.

A total of 5,661 people in the borough claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in February, compared with 5,826 the previous month.

This means 165 fewer people on the dole locally, reducing the percentage of the local working age population claiming JSA from 6.1 per cent to 6.0 per cent.

> Wow ! 0.1% !  Though I notice there’s no mention of whether that figure includes those sanctioned… I suspect it does.

However, youth unemployment across the borough remains stubbornly high, with 1,500 people aged between 18 and 24 claiming JSA.

And the youth unemployment figure in South Tyneside is 11.6 per cent, compared with eight per cent for the North East as a whole.

Last month’s rise in the local claimant count was blamed on the end of seasonal employment over the festive period.

Coun Michael Clare, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for regeneration and economy, said: “This is welcome news to see the jobless figures reduce for last month, getting everything back on track after the recent seasonal rise, due to the end of hundreds of temporary festive contracts.

“The council is continuing to work closely with its partners to generate practical and informative opportunities for both apprentices and jobseekers in the borough.”

Across the North East, unemployment stands at 125,000, a fall of 8,000 over the last quarter, while the regional claimant count is 70,300, a reduction of 1,700 between January and February.

Mark Stephenson, manager of policy and research for the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), said: “The North East has improved on all measures within the labour market between November 2013 and January 2014, which is to be welcomed.  

“This continues an upward trend, in particular for employment and claimant count figures, which have been heading steadily in the right direction for several quarters.”

But he added: “However, the North East unemployment rate is still the highest in the country, which has to be a focus for policy makers moving forward.”

Nationally, unemployment in the UK fell by 63,000 to 2.33 million in the three months to January 2014.

Source – Shields Gazette,  20 March 2014

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