Unemployment Report Is Labelled 'Outdated'

Business leaders have criticised an "outdated" report suggesting Hull is plagued by high levels of unemployment and low prospects.

The study from the Centre for Cities think tank reveals 10,000 jobs were lost in the decade to 2013, with nothing to replace them.

It also highlights what the authors call a "dramatically" widening gap between prosperous cities, mostly in the South, and those at the poorer end.

Coming in at 59th out of 63 urban areas, with a 7.9 per cent drop in job numbers, Hull is once again bringing up the rear. However, prominent business figures said the picture had been transformed in the past 12 months.

Rory Clarke, managing director of Hull energy and shipping business JR Rix and Sons, said: "As it doesn't take 2014 into account, the report shows a rather skewed picture of the situation as it currently stands.

"We might have had some bad luck in recent years, but we have a long list of positives yet to be felt, which will make this report look even more irrelevant than it already is in a relatively short period of time."

While the sheer scale of job cuts certainly brings home the difficulties East Yorkshire has faced, few business leaders are surprised.

The report ranks Hull as the fifth-most reliant on manufacturing jobs – and when times are tough, they are some of the first to go.

Many of Hull's big household names went bust or cut back in the dark times.

The casualties range from lending business Cattles, which cut 400 jobs in Hull six years ago and then collapsed, to the dramatic scaling back of aircraft builder BAE Systems' operation in Brough.

Caravan manufacturing, another regional employment staple, was also hit hard. Many staff were laid off at leading holiday home firms, although the situation has now improved dramatically.

One example of recovery can be seen at Victory Leisure Homes, formed after the collapse of manufacturer Cosalt, which has expanded its Gilberdyke factory by 50 per cent.

"The Humber region has certainly suffered some unfortunate knocks in recent years, such as Seven Seas leaving Hull, BAE Systems and Kimberley Clark on the south bank," Mr Clarke said.

However, the managing director was quick to point out times are changing.

Siemens' £310m offshore wind turbine facility at Alexandra Dock is an obvious example of hope for the future.

Set to employ 1,000 people directly, it has also been heralded as the start of a new industry that could create work for thousands more.

Established city firms are also starting to invest again. RB, which was formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser, is building a £100m research and development centre, which will create 100 jobs.

Hull's year as UK City of Culture in 2017 is set to add about £60m to the region's economy, another major boost. It will also be a chance to show off the city's credentials to investors elsewhere.

Many of these benefits have yet to be felt, but they do contribute to an increasingly upbeat mood.

For the first time since the end of the trawler industry, Hull has a purpose again – to sit at the head of the UK's so-called energy estuary.

Hull City Council leader Steve Brady said: "Since the fishing industry collapsed, and the docks, we've always had a problem with jobs.

"Hull was always bottom of the pile when it came to investment opportunities. Now, I'm quite confident about the future."

With a national debate raging about devolution and the best way to improve prospects in the North, Hull is now seeking Government backing.

The overall consensus is that things have improved since 2013 – although there is plenty more to do.

The Government's latest figures suggest Hull saw a 30 per cent fall in the last 12 months.

Although much better than the Centre for Cities report suggests, it leaves room for improvement.

Posted: Sat 03 Feb 2018
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