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Preston ‘one of the fastest-growing UK economies’ says new report

Posted on - 9th December, 2021 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Business, Politics, Preston News
Looking down a busy Fishergate Pic: Tony Worrall
Looking down a busy Fishergate Pic: Tony Worrall

A national law firm has named Preston the fourth fasted-growing economy in the UK during 2021.

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The Irwin Mitchell report said Preston saw its economy grow by 8.5 per cent during the last 12 months.

The report attributes some growth to The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), a city employer with around 38,000 staff and students.

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Hannah Clipston, a partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The UK’s economy has undergone significant change over the last two years, and this report highlights that the recovery is unlikely to be linear or even uniform.”

Another major factor for the local economy is the producer of defence systems, BAE Systems, which has multiple sites in the region.

In September 2021, the company received a contract to supply the US Navy with engineering and support services worth roughly £350m.

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But the next 12 months will see the city struggle to maintain this position.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) produced the UK Powerhouse study. It analyses 50 of the largest local economies by employment and GVA growth.

Preston’s fourth position contrasts with developments in the labour market, where employment is estimated to have fallen by 0.5 per cent on an annual basis in 2021.

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The report highlights the challenges, where it says Preston’s economy will grow year on year by just 2.5 per cent in 2022, and the number of people who have jobs will grow by just 0.7 per cent in the same period.

The study reveals that the South West and the South East have the largest share of businesses engaged in innovative activity. 41 per cent of South West businesses are innovative compared to 37 per cent in the North West.

The most popular driver for innovation is improving the quality of goods and services. Only a quarter of firms in the South East were innovating to respond to environmental concerns and a desire to reduce their carbon footprint.

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The proportion was even lower in London and the South West where the figure was just 20 per cent.

Hannah said: “Businesses have been incredibly resilient over the last couple of years and have faced many disruptors including Covid, labour shortages, supply chain issues and high fuel costs.

“Our latest study recommends that irrespective of the sector they’re in, organisations should be adopting technology more quickly and adapting to the UK’s new status after Brexit.

“All of this will require a shift in approach and for innovation to be celebrated and nurtured more than it is currently. Businesses must be encouraged to follow this path and receive the right level of support to help them succeed.”

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