Has Burnley weathered economic storm?

Newspaper headlines - financial crisis
Newspaper headlines - financial crisis
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Burnley has coped better with the economic downturn than many other areas of the UK.

According to the latest Centre for Cities report, Cities Outlook 2013, which gives a detailed picture of life in the country’s urban areas, Burnley fared better during the recession than expected between 2008 and 2012.

The report found the town struggled in the 10 years before 2008 but since then it has not suffered as much as other towns and cities.

“Some cities, such as Burnley, have been surprisingly resilient, while others have been unexpectedly affected,” it said.

Burnley Council leader Coun. Julie Cooper said the town’s resilience was down to a good relationship between the public and private sector.

“We are quite unique in the way we are tackling things. It’s really unusual to have the public sector and business and industry working together. In Burnley we take business really seriously, we are a friend of business.”

Figures show job losses in Burnley have mainly been in the banking, finance and insurance, manufacturing and construction sectors while people employed in mid to lower skilled occupations felt the effects of the recession most.

The largest rise in the number of benefit claimants between 2008 and 2012 was among those working in sales and customer service and elementary occupations.

However, the increase in the number of claimants was below the UK average between 2008 and 2009. But the claimant count increased again in the three years between 2009 and 2012 at a time when the national figure fell.

The report attributed the rise to: “Job losses at Home Loan Management, a provider of back office management services, and Gardner Aerospace, which transferred production to its other UK plants.”

It also highlighted “major public sector interventions designed to improve Burnley’s future economic performance” with projects such as the Todmorden Curve, which will provide a direct rail link between Burnley and Manchester, and the purchasing of land in the Weavers’ Triangle by Burnley Borough Council.

There was a slight reduction in Burnley’s business stock between 2011 and 2012 while in 2012 the number of business start-ups per 10,000 population was almost equalled by the number of closures.

Workers in Burnley earned more in 2013 than in 2012 but there was no growth in real earnings during that time.

The report also revealed that Burnley has the slowest growing population in the country.

Only Sunderland had a slower growth rate than Burnley, which saw a decrease of 2,300 residents in the 10-year period between 2001 and 2011.

In terms of business, Burnley was listed in the top 10 cities for private sector jobs growth. Between 2010 and 2011 the number of private sector jobs increased by 1,600, at three times the national rate, and by 2011 46,800 people were employed in the town’s private sector.

The report highlighted Burnley’s shortage of housing stock.

The town ranked ninth in the 10 UK cities with the lowest housing stock growth.

Figures showed there was no housing supply growth between 2010 and 2011, which Coun. Cooper said was due to a cut in housing renewal funding from the Government, although since that time a number of new-build housing projects have started in the town.

House prices in Burnley increased by 7.9% from 2001 to 2011, one of the biggest rises in the UK. The average price of a house in 2001 was £46,200 and by 2011 that figure had risen by £52,600 to £98,900.

However, despite the rise, taking into account wages, property in Burnley is affordable.

The report said: “In Burnley it would be affordable under these assumptions for the average wage earner to buy the average house in the city.”

Coun. Cooper said she was relatively pleased with the findings of the report but said families in Burnley were still struggling. She said the key focus was creating jobs to boost the town’s economy.

“I’m really pleased that a lot of the success stories have been highlighted but that’s not to say there aren’t a lot of issues. There’s a lot of people struggling in Burnley.

“We want to grow the economy and we believe that’s the best single thing we can do for people, making sure there are decent job opportunities.”

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