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News - 26 June 2009
Tony Mernagh

State of the City address

The Chamber's annual State of the City address at the Sallis Benny Theatre on Tuesday evening outlined the toll that the recession had taken on the Brighton & Hove economy and highlighted the need to prepare for the upturn.

Executive Director of the Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership – Tony Mernagh – updated the audience of business people on key economic indicators and then joined a panel of experts for questions. The panel included representatives from the City Council, the regional development agency (SEEDA), the Learning Partnerhsip, Wired Sussex, The Chamber and Sussex Police.

He reported that, so far the recession has been merciful to Brighton & Hove. While some 2,350 people have joined the unemployment register in the last year, a Centre for Cities report at the start of the recession (see earlier story) had suggested that job losses could be as high as 7,400. Tony Mernagh stressed, however, that although the recession may well prove to be technically over when figures are reported for the June quarter, unemployment tends to keep on rising long after growth has returned to positive territory.

Local indicators such as footfall, retail sales and retail vacancy rates are also holding up well against national indicators and the city hopes to capitalise from additional visitors if the good weather holds throughout summer. There is already anecdotal evidence that the weak pound is helping language schools to attract foreign students.

Unsurprisingly housing prices have plumetted with the average first time buyers flat costing nearly £29,000 less than a year ago. On the upside this means that the salary needed to get onto the housing ladder has fallen by nearly £11,000 p.a. from £52,480 last year to £41,730 in the first quarter of 2009 (see earlier story).

Also on the upside salaries have imporved and at least one of our major developments – the Falmer Stadium – got off the ground and is on the way to completion for 2011. Others have been postponed but the City is still optimistic that they will be built when the recession ends. The decision by American Express to commit to an additional 270,000 sq feet of office space in Edward Street , nearly doubling its employment floor space, was a bright star in a dark development firmament (see earlier story)

Tony Mernagh warned that perhaps the most worrying aspect of the mounting national borrowing requirement (£175bn next year and £173bn the year after) is the amount that is structural i.e. it won’t recover once the recession is over. The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that as much as £137bn of next year’s debt could be structural (see earlier story). The UK and Brighton & Hove need to think carefully about how they will replace the revenue and employment opportunities that are likely to be lost from business and financial services and public sector.

To view the presentation click below.

Click here to download The Brighton & Hove Economy 2009 [3.7MB]

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