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East will be among fastest-growing regions, report predicts

PUBLISHED: 01:00 25 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:24 25 February 2020

An Ernst & Young report reveals a deepening economic north-south divide  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

An Ernst & Young report reveals a deepening economic north-south divide Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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The East of England will be among the UK’s fastest-growing regions over the next three years, financial experts predict.

Stuart Wilkinson, Ernst & Young (EY) office managing partner in the East of England  Picture: ALAN BENNETTStuart Wilkinson, Ernst & Young (EY) office managing partner in the East of England Picture: ALAN BENNETT

Ernst & Young (EY) has forecast that Gross Value Added (GVA) growth in the region will be 1.8%, joining London and the South East as among the higher growth parts of the country.

But its report points to a deepening north-south divide, with the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands forecast to be the slowest growing areas in England.

Among the stand-out growth drivers will be Cambridge at 2% GVA between 2020 and 2023, with Peterborough a close second at 1.9%, but even within the region there is a macro-economic divide, with Norwich GVA predicted to be 1.5% and Bedford, Southend-On-Sea 1.6%.

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The report did not include a breakdown for Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Colchester, but it does note that overall, growth will be faster in "core cities" at 2.2%, than in towns at 1.6%.

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EY managing partner in the East of England Stuart Wilkinson said the region was punching above its weight when it comes to growth.

"It's great news that the region is predicted to be one of the fastest growing regions in the UK," he said.

"However, it is worrying that Cambridge's performance is not being mirrored in all parts of the region. There is considerable fragmentation across the region, with the city operating as a successful standalone location but having limited connection to the wider region. The other cities in the region don't currently show the same levels of growth as Cambridge."

The forecast emphasised the difficulty facing the government in addressing regional imbalances and just how important policy announcements in the budget will be, he said.

"Despite the launch of at least 40 geographic policy initiative over the last five decades, the UK remains one of the most regionally imbalanced of developed economies," he said.

"Much is said of the need for rebalance, and a levelling up, to tackle the North/South divide, but as is evident in this latest economic report there is also a need for regions such as the East of England to tackle a macro-economic divide to create wider prosperity and economic growth opportunities across the whole region. If we are to succeed in levelling up the economy a more radical approach is now urgently required."

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