Despite a challenging economic and political climate, statistics show that County Durham’s economy has grown in recent years. The latest estimates suggest that there are now over 200,000 jobs in County Durham.
Between 2014 and 2015, the number of jobs in the county went up by 4.7%. This was higher than the average for the north east as a whole (an increase of 3.6%) and for the whole of the UK (up 2.5%).
In the last few years, the north east’s economy has been battered by factors such as central government austerity, the ongoing effects of the banking crisis, and the shocks to the market resulting from the Brexit vote.
Austerity has also led to cuts in nationally and regionally funded business support and enterprise initiatives.
In spite of these challenges, Durham County Council says it has “made great strides in support of the region’s economy.”
Some of the measures the council has taken to stimulate the local economy are:
- Securing 9,232 square metres of office space for businesses in Durham City, thereby helping to safeguard 1,200 jobs.
- Investing in town centres across County Durham.
- Establishing Finance Durham, the first council-led venture capital investment fund in the north east.
- Establishing Chapter Homes, one of the UK’s first housing companies owned by a local authority.
- Securing £17 million from the EU’s Youth Employment Initiative fund to help youngsters aged 16-24 get into employment and training.
- Ensuring that – through initiatives such as partnerships with social housing providers – 10,000 people have received financial support in the last few years despite central government austerity measures.
A report to be presented to the council’s cabinet will suggest ways of sustaining County Durham’s economic growth.
The report will recommend improvements to the county’s infrastructure, proposing that work should be undertaken on the A182, the A178/A19 Sheraton Interchange and the A1(M).
The report will recommend that the proposed bus station project on Durham City’s north road goes ahead and that a new mixed-use development site in the city centre should be established.
The report will also discuss developments at the council’s strategic employment site at Aykley Heads in Durham City.
The council believes its plans could lead to the creation of 6,000 jobs in total.
Measures to support local businesses will include the completion of new buildings and the expansion of infrastructure at Sedgefield’s science and technology centre NETpark, and the start of marketing operations for the Hawthorn Prestige Business Park in Murton.
Also at NETpark, the NESSA (North East Space and Satellite Applications) project, run by the council’s business arm Business Durham, will be getting underway.
Councillor Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said, “Given the current economic climate, it’s really encouraging to see County Durham outperforming the national average in jobs growth.”
“We will continue to support the economy in any way we can and strive for further growth year-on-year.”
“The council has been really focused on getting County Durham back on its feet following the recession, and these job growth figures are fantastic news.”
“We will continue to meet the challenges the county faces head on, and look forward to further economic achievements in the region.”