James Durie, Bristol Chamber of Commerce director tells Channel 4 News that despite job losses, the city’s private sector in a range of industries, will generate future jobs.
Gross weekly pay – £503.60 / £500 UK average
JSA claimants – 4.2 per cent / 4.1 per cent UK average
Vacancies per 10,000 – 82 / 72 UK average
JSA claimants per unfilled vacancy – 5.2 / 5.7 UK average
James Durie, Bristol Chamber of Commerce director on the BCC’s quarterly economic survey: “It is encouraging to see local businesses reporting improvements in their working environment and feeling more confident at the start of 2012 than they were last year. Particularly pleasing to see, is the continued strong growth in the export market. This is a key focus area for Bristol Chamber and Business West. With sales and orders increasing significantly across our region, this provides a sense of optimism that Bristol and the South West can lead on a national economic rebalancing in favour of export driven growth.
“Despite this optimism, there are areas where more support and action is needed from government. Access to finance and cashflow remain a real issue for firms and although concerns about inflation are decreasing, recent increases in oil and food prices seem likely to have a negative impact in the coming months.
“The latest announcements around credit easing, the new simplified planning framework and the launch of the Youth Contract represent positive action from government. However our businesses need a continued focus on policies to support their growth and to enable them to create jobs, invest and export.”
James Durie, Bristol Chamber of Commerce director: Despite a recession in the UK, we firmly believe the Bristol labour market is felt better placed that most other major cities in the country.
Bristol has the lowest JSA claimant count compared tothe seven core UK cities. And in the year to March 2011 Bristol was one of only three major cities to see its employment rate rise above the national average.
With a diverse and quite well balanced economy there is recognition that Bristol has great potential for private-sector job growth. Main priorities of growth are recognised as the creative, micro electronics, low carbon and visitor and tourism sectors.
For instance Bristol-based makers of Wallace and Gromit, Aardman, are about to launch their new film ‘Pirates’ – a film which was made entirely in the city employing at its peak last year an additional 300 staff.
Over 700 businesses are now involved in the west of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and a regular Barriers to Growth Survey is now up and running. Something to emerge from this survey is that access to finance, planning, access to skills and lack of confidence are key issues for businesses. And interestingly, over 40 businesses in the most recent survey said they were looking to take on more staff in the coming months.
Whilst there are major public sector employers, Bristol city does not have an over-reliance on the public sector. In 2010 it accounted for 26.6 per cent of all jobs in the city, compared for example with 33.5 per cent in Newcastle. Despite this, it is forecast that between 2010 and 2015 Bristol will lose a net total of 1,600 public-sector jobs. In May last year the MOD announced more than 2,000 redundancies.
BAE Systems also announced job losses as a consequence of closing the airfield at Filton.
Engineering firm Renishaw has also recently announced they are creating another 120 new jobs.The Bristol & Bath Science Park is another major focus for new growth and building with the new Innovation Building up and running alongside the National Composite Centre it will lead to the creation of around 6,000 new jobs.
Enterprise zone provides perks for business
However the strength of the aerospace cluster in Bristol and the south west is very considerable alongside the likes of Airbus and Rolls-Royce there are in total nine out of the top 12 aerospace firms globally in the Bristol and SW area.
The west of England LEP was awarded one of the UK’s first enterprise zones which is an area focused around Temple Meads train in central Bristol which has space to accommodate 17,000 new jobs and in the next five years has committed to creating at least 5,000.
New occupiers will enjoy a five year period of nil business rates, a simplified planning regime and as a consequence of this week’s budget not super but ultra fast broadband will be in place. BT has already moved to carry out the necessary exchange upgrading and are working together with the other providers.
Alongside the enterprise zone, five new enterprise areas have been established across Bristol, Bath and the West of England where there is space to accommodate up to 100,000 new jobs.
Whilst there are a lot of positives and areas to build on, we are also aware of a real and growing concern that more people will find it difficult to regain employment. This is something that the Chamber will also be focusing on in the coming months.