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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

Statistics show county economy outperforming North West and UK

CUMBRIA’S economy has grown strongly in the last two years, outperforming the rest of the North West and the UK as a whole.

John Stevenson  photo
John Stevenson

Figures from the Office for National Statistics back up claims from Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and Carlisle MP John Stevenson that the county is doing relatively well.

Cumbria’s headline GVA, the Government’s preferred measure of output, was £8.95bn in 2011, up from £8.62bn in 2010 and £8.12bn in 2009.

This represents a 10.2 per cent increase in two years.

The GVA of the North West region – which covers Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, as well as Cumbria – grew by only 5.8 per cent over the same period.

And GVA for the UK as a whole grew by 6.0 per cent.

Mr Stevenson is not surprised.

The Conservative MP said:“If you look at the main industries in Cumbria, none has closed down and some have seen quite substantial investment.

“Unemployment hasn’t gone through the roof. It has been falling for most of 2012 and is lower than it was a year ago.

“We are extremely well placed when the upturn comes.”

In simple terms GVA, which strands for gross value added, is a measure of economic success derived from the value of outputs (wages, profits) minus the value of inputs (materials, components).

Cumbria’s strong showing in the last two years is a remarkable turnaround.

Taken over a longer period, the county’s performance is not as impressive.

Cumbrian GVA has grown by 67.4 per cent since 1997, still better than the North West increase of 64.3 per cent but well behind the UK-wide increase of 79.9 per cent.

The statistics also show GVA per head of population.

Here the relative improvement is striking.

In 2005, Cumbria had the second-lowest GVA per head in the North West, ahead only of Merseyside.

By 2011 it had overtaken Lancashire and Greater Manchester and was closing on prosperous Cheshire.

At £18,133, Cumbria’s GVA per head remains below the national average but the gap is narrowing.

It was 84.9 per cent of the national figure in 2011, compared with 76.1 per cent in 2004.

Back then Cumbria’s GVA was shrinking as a proportion of the North West and national figures.

Politicians were so worried that they called a ‘prosperity summit’ at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake to look at ways of tackling the decline.

The summit was organised by the now defunct North West Regional Assembly – an umbrella body for local authorities – and was attended by representatives from business and other organisations.

The then leader of Cumbria County Council, the late Rex Toft, told delegates that Cumbria’s economic figures were “quite alarming” and should be a wake-up call.

Ideas to improve the county’s lot included starting scheduled flights from Carlisle Airport – which still has not happened – and establishing a University of Cumbria, which came into being in 2007.

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