An enterprising economy

Features Posted 14/12/18
Five years on, are the aspirations for the city set out in a major policy plan matching reality?

A five-year plan drawn up by Brighton and Hove City Council in 2013 set out four aspirations for the area. An economic statement this year reviews the issues.

The first aspiration was to enhance the city as a destination with a distinctive lifestyle, second was to encourage and grow quality jobs in the high-value, low-carbon sectors, third to tackle unemployment and create opportunities for all and fourth to establish a strong and influential region. The authority’s economic statement, approved in April, 2018, is described as providing “the overarching strategic and spatial vision for the city in the period to 2030”. About £160 million of public sector investment has been allocated to projects across the city region. In phase one and two, 14 projects unlocking an estimated 14,000 jobs, 8,200 homes and 450,000 square metres of employment space were set as aims. In the third phase, a further six projects would be focused on, delivering about 9,844 jobs, 5965 homes and 299,428 square metres of employment space. The report outlines the state of the economy of the Brighton and Hove council area, which has “performed relatively well in recent years”. Employment has increased by 11% since 2011 and the number of businesses by about 20%.

Brighton and Hove is described as “an enterprising economy”, with a comparatively high level of start-ups and one of the UK’s highest levels of “early stage entrepreneurial activity”.

However, the report is honest about the number of “core economic challenges” which remain to be addressed, adding: “While productivity has shown strong growth in recent years, it remains comparatively low in the national context”. This partly reflects the structure of the economy, where higher value sectors are emerging, but a large proportion of the economy remains focused around lower productivity sectors, including retail and the visitor economy.

The report warns of several threats to the economy of the Brighton and Hove area, particularly relating to Brexit and the sectors which rely heavily on migrant workers.

Focusing on the wealth of the area, the report notes a “relatively large gap between the earnings of residents in the city and the people who work there”. It says the affordability of housing is “a major challenge” and there is increasing concern that some of the city’s lower-earning workers will become unable to afford to live there. Constraint on the supply of land for housing is an important issue.

People who can afford to live in Brighton and Hove enjoy “a vibrant, cosmopolitan lifestyle”, says the report. A strong commitment to arts and culture is shown by a number of events such as the Brighton Festival, which also attracts people from elsewhere. The city has worked hard to achieve “low carbon and sustainable credentials”, the most obvious example of which is the Rampion offshore wind farm in Hove.

Despite all these opportunities, data provided by the Office for National Statistics records an average resident’s slightly lower than average satisfaction with life and slightly higher rates of anxiety. This is explained by “a range of factors, from the cost of living, to work and income pressures”. However, it is a factor to watch, the report warns.

In its conclusions, written as a “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, the report says Brighton and Hove needs to encourage productive growth, build resilience, be watchful of the impact of Brexit and consider the long-term risk associated with housing affordability.

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Photo: Brighton The Lanes Shopping ©Adam Bronkhorst

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