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Aerial of the City of Sunderland

Sunderland tops North East's economic league

Sunderland had the best-performing city economy in the North East in the third quarter of last year, according to a new report.

The UK Powerhouse study is produced by Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and provides an estimate of growth of gross value added (GVA) - the measure of the value of goods and services produced - and job creation within 45 of the UK’s largest cities 12 months ahead of the Government’s official figures.

According to the latest report, Sunderland was one of the UK’s rising stars across Q3 2017, with the city leaping 26 places in the league table of GVA growth with a rate of 1.6% across the period.

In contrast, Newcastle’s GVA growth rate was clocked at 1.4%, while Middlesbrough had a rate of just 1.1% and was also revealed to be among the slowest expanding cities in the UK in terms of employment.

The research also provided predictions for 2018, with Sunderland and Newcastle expected to enjoy moderate growth of 1.1% and 1.14% respectively. Again, there was less good news for Middlesbrough, which is expected to record growth of 0.58% across the year with that rate being the lowest expected in the UK.Victoria Brackett, chief executive of Business Legal Services at Irwin Mitchell, said: "The latest study has provided some very welcome news for Sunderland, with it flying up the league table and its performance outstripping its North East rivals.

"As the report outlines, Sunderland City Council revealed investment plans for the city in 2015 and it is now believed that these are having a tangible effect on the location, with infrastructure in particular improving through projects such as the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor.

"Sadly, it is less good news for Middlesbrough, with the city’s current position and future prospects looking hugely concerning."

This latest edition of UK Powerhouse examines the impact that the education has on city economies, with Newcastle’s education sector being the eighth largest in the UK and valued at £287.3 million at the end of 2015.

There was more good news for Sunderland too, with the city’s education sector being among the best performing after it grew by 15% between 2012 and 2015 to be valued at £72.9 million.

The size of Middlesbrough’s education sector fell by 2% across the period to a value of £86.3 million.

The report notes the education sector makes a major contribution to economic growth within many areas surrounding universities and also offers recommendations on how it can continue to do so. These include:

  • Engaging in the work of Local Enterprise partnerships, particularly in support for innovation;
  • Ensuring cities with a strong outflow of graduate age young workers have policies for retaining talent, with the Government also providing incentives for graduate recruiters to hire more in those areas;
  • Encouraging cities to improving infrastructure to optimise the movement of workers;
  • and introducing large-scale affordable housing projects to appeal to graduates.