What’s the outlook for Bridgend’s economy?

(Pic: Wales Online)

 

Officers and cabinet members will provide a comprehensive update to a Bridgend Council Scrutiny Committee later this week on the current and future state of Bridgend’s economy (pdf).

Here’s a summary of the report’s analysis:

The current state of the local economy

  • Bridgend’s economy has “fared reasonably well” through the Great Recession and beyond; there were 10,000 more people in work in 2013 than 2001 despite “headline-grabbing” factory closures during that time (Christie Tyler, Cosi-Budelpack, Kimball Electronics, Lloyds call centre).
  • The number of businesses-per-person in Bridgend (0.025) is slightly less than the Welsh (0.032) and UK averages (0.035) – but the number of businesses in Bridgend is increasing (+10% between 2010-2015) at a faster rate than Wales (+9%).
  • Bridgend has a higher proportion of small and medium-sized (SMEs) than the Welsh and UK averages, with lower proportions of large employers (250+ employees). 87% of businesses in the county are made up of the self-employed and micro-enterprises (less than 10 employees).
  • Bridgend has more people working in manufacturing (10%) than the Welsh average (6%).
  • A higher proportion of working age people in Bridgend workforce are qualified to degree-level or equivalent (36.3%) than Wales (35.1%) but below the UK average (38.2%). Also, Bridgend has a higher proportion of working-age people with no qualifications (10.7%) than Wales (9.6%) and the UK (8%).

BCBC economic development policy & programmes

  • The equivalent of 8 full-time staff are employed by BCBC to work on economic development; £172,000 is available for marketing & events funding and general capital funding – though most of the responsibility now rests with Welsh Government bodies like Business Wales.
  • Grants of up to £2,000 are available to new start-ups, funded 50:50 between the UK Steel Enterprise and BCBC. 22 businesses were supported in 2017-18, creating 27 jobs at a total cost of £22,300. The scheme is now on hold until after the next council budget.
  • 28 jobs have been created and 54 safeguarded through a separate fund for established businesses.
  • In total, BCBC’s Special Regeneration Fund has created 223 jobs, supported 137 local businesses and helped establish 82 new businesses since 2010.
  • Bridgend Business Forum has over 800 members, with an average of 24 business events held every year.

The future outlook for Bridgend’s economy

  • Recent research by KPMG, PwC, Institute of Chartered Accountants and OECD suggests the economic outlook for the UK is “challenging”, with Wales no exception.
  • There’s no idea of how Bridgend’s economy will change, but Welsh economic growth is expected to be lower than the UK.
  • Brocastle (near Waterton) has been shortlisted as a possible Heathrow Logistics Hub (more here), where some work for the expansion of Heathrow Airport could take place.
  • Bridgend will be part of a regional “skills partnership” covering the entirety of the Cardiff City Region. This will analyse skills sets of the workforce and help prioritise different types of training based on what the economy needs.
  • It’s unclear what will replace EU Objective One funding after Brexit, but if it focuses only on those areas guaranteed to deliver productivity and jobs then Bridgend could lose out on “considerable resources”.
  • Bridges into Work – a scheme to get the long-term unemployed into work and part-funded by the EU – is expected to be extended until 2022 regardless of Brexit.

The only thing I would pick up on is there seems to have been no mention of the future of the Ford engine plant – there’s been little news on that recently, but there’s the potential of significant job losses in the coming few years if a clear future role for the plant isn’t established. The potential impact on Bridgend and wider regional economy is enormous.

The meeting is due to be webcast on Wednesday (7th February). If I have time, I’ll write up a summary of what was said by the end of the week.

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Owen