Alex Turner is the general manager of financial training firm Ambitious Minds.
ONE of the problems with regional economic data is that by the time it is sufficiently robust it can seem too dated to be relevant.
Take the information from the Office of National Statistics on gross value added (GVA) figures, released last week. It measures economic output, but its sub-regional data is only for 2009.
In normal economic times, the two-year-old data just about has some merit. In the current turbulent times, it feels like the latest offering from David Starkey or Simon Schama.
So we know that in 2009 – buoyed by the after-effects of its year as European Capital of Culture, and the huge impact of Liverpool One and the Arena and Convention Centre – Liverpool’s GVA per head figure fell only 0.7%, while the UK saw a 2.7% drop.
This put the city in the top five sub-regions for its performance that year, and builds on a strong showing over the previous five years, with Liverpool high in the list for growth from 2004.
It is accepted wisdom that Liverpool is the driver of the Merseyside economy, so it would be reasonable to expect that Merseyside had also done well from 2004-09.
But like a lot of accepted wisdom, it turns out not to be all that wise.
In that five-year period, Liverpool’s GVA jumped 18.7%, but Merseyside’s GVA only increased 13.9% compared with a UK average of 13.7%. The 10-year trend is similar. From 1999-2009, Liverpool’s GVA rose 55.5% but Merseyside’s increase of 46.2% was only just ahead of the UK average of 45.1%.
This trend is hugely concerning because it reveals that for all the money and endeavour and apparent success, Merseyside has failed to close the historic economic gap and instead has done little more than keep pace.
The data clearly shows that Liverpool is not driving the sub-regional economy, but sucking up the output from other parts of Merseyside.
Sefton and Wirral, already poor performers, have fallen further behind. Over a decade their GVA figures increased 30% and 29% respectively, but inflation was 33%. In real terms, their economies have shrunk since 1999.
In the same way that the South East distorts the UK picture, it appears that what is true for Liverpool isn’t necessarily true for Merseyside, and that needs to be a major concern for the sub-region.