The Bucks Data Exchange and Bucks LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) recently shared the latest economic data at a cross-sector online event. At the event, the Bucks LEP presented insights into key economic trends, GDP changes in Buckinghamshire, the labour market, and the cost of doing business.
The global pandemic and cost-of-living crisis are impacting residents, businesses, charities and the public sector across the country – and Buckinghamshire is not immune. Saad Ehsan, Research Manager at Bucks LEP set the context by explaining that the national challenges facing the UK are broad, with the UK economy in a state of stagnation, inflation high, labour shortages across a variety of sectors and widespread industrial action.
In Buckinghamshire the GDP – Current prices (Gross Domestic Product) was £17.38 billion in 2020, however it saw a decrease of 11.2% between 2019 and 2020, a greater decrease than those seen in the South East or across England, showing the pandemic hit Buckinghamshire hard.
We also heard that Buckinghamshire based organisations are facing challenges in recruitment, with fewer people in the labour market*. This is despite an increase in job postings since, especially for nurses, programmers, sales, customer service, and other administrative occupations. Panellists from the VCSE, business sector and Council all reported issues in recruitment, and discussed the benefits of flexible working to encourage more people to apply to posts. Interestingly, the data shows a ‘skills mismatch’: The population in Buckinghamshire is highly educated, however many of the job postings are for less skilled jobs.
Insights from the Bucks LEP also showed that the cost of doing businesses has risen over recent years. A high proportion of respondents to the Buckinghamshire Business Barometer survey report rising costs in energy, goods / materials, transportation and wages. In spite of these challenges, we heard about opportunities for growth in Buckinghamshire. Key growth sectors, from an employment perspective, over the next decade will be:
- Construction – HS2, East West Rail, Aylesbury Garden Town related construction activity, and house building program.
- Film and TV – expansion plans at Pinewood Studios, plus the continuing inward investment boom of the West of London Screen Cluster
- Life sciences, health and social care – health needs of an ageing population and aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Space – linked to expansion of the Westcott Space Cluster.
- High performance engineering – expansion of the Silverstone Enterprise Zone, and green technologies (400 companies) to combat climate change
Attendees at the event shared their thoughts during breakout groups and discussed how business, statutory and VCSE (Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector) organisations could work collaboratively to tackle challenges together. There was discussion about how organisations in each sector share the same recruitment challenges as each other, and are all affected by a lack of economic growth. Examples of cross sector work to build resilience were also shared, for example, Community Impact Bucks, who provide VCSE infrastructure support, are working with the LEP on a local skills improvement plan. One idea was the need to talk to young people about the career opportunities in the areas where there is need now and forecast need into the future.