Northampton's economic performance is 'mid table' councillors are told

Despite the loss of Marks & Spencer, the vacancy rate in the town centre is down on the 2010 figure
Despite the loss of Marks & Spencer, the vacancy rate in the town centre is down on the 2010 figure

Northampton’s economic performance has been ranked as ‘mid-table’ by the council’s head of economy.

A recently published report from Rick O’Farrell to Northampton Borough Council’s scrutiny committee shows wide-ranging results, including that residents are earning less per week than the national average, but that the town centre actually has fewer shops boarded up than it did back in 2010.

Some of the positives included news that Northampton was named the ‘most enterprising town’ for business start up’s in 2016 by the Centre for Cities’ within their Cities Outlook 2016 report. Based on the 2017 Outlook report, Northampton remained in second place with only London moving above the town.

But the report adds: “Locations with high numbers of business start-ups also have a high number of business failures, this is true of Northampton, however the positioning in the Cities Outlook demonstrates that a business has currently more chance of surviving in Northampton rather than anywhere else except London.”

More than 90 per cent of Northampton’s 10,000 enterprises is small to medium (SMEs) with nine or fewer staff members, with the town home to 55 large companies that employ over 250 people.

And the report indicates that major economic shocks, such as any potential fall-outs from a No Deal Brexit, may have less impact on Northampton than some other towns.

The report says: “An advantage of this structure is that because employment is distributed among a large number of smaller companies rather than being concentrated in a small number of large corporations, the economy is less at risk of economic shocks more likely to be experienced by having a high concentration of large internationally mobile companies. This means that SMEs are well placed to support future job creation.”

The performance of the town centre is also discussed. Northampton has seen a number of major retailers close within the town centre, such as Marks & Spencer. And the most recent Retail and Leisure Study reports a town centre vacancy rate of 14.9 per cent within the town centre, a drop from the 2010 figure of 17.3 per cent.

Meanwhile the average weekly wage in Northampton is currently £536.50 per week according to the latest Office for National Statistics Labour Force report. This is reported by the Centre for Cities as an average performing area, but the figure is lower than the national figure of £571.10 per week.

Presenting the findings of the report to the scrutiny committee on Monday evening (February 4), Mr O’Farrell told councillors: “Using a football team analogy Northampton is performing mid-table. We have seen some real positives such as unemployment below the national average, and the highest business start-up rate outside of London. We also have a high level of businesses in the knowledge economy and a high job density. And despite the recent decline in the town centre it’s still the 64th best performing in the country.

“There are still some things to monitor though. There’s a high demand for skilled staff, and employment growth in local companies is starting to slow down. In the last quarter of last year, we actually started to see companies reporting job losses too.”