Jobs and homes bonanza to give Norwich a brighter future
09:58 11 July 2014
Norwich’s position as the economic engine of the county looks set to be maximised by a far-reaching blueprint to help create hundreds of new jobs, homes and businesses in the city.
Norwich City Council will boost the creation of small businesses and jobs in the city by building on its partnerships with enterprise agencies, according to its proposed action plan.
The council will seek to create the right economic “environment” for businesses by encouraging entrepreneurs to seek help through the NWES Ready for Business programme – spearheaded by NWES chief executive Kevin Horne, left – offering classes in business planing, financial forecasting bookkeeping and tax planning.
It will also look to build on its relationship with Enterprise Norfolk and Business Revolution, which provides free training and support for growing a business online.
Since last year, these services helped the council deliver 280 training days, create 202 new businesses, support 140 existing small businesses and establish 52 new trading websites.
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Norwich City Council has outlined its Economic Strategy Action Plan for 2014/15 to build upon the city’s strengthening economic outlook, which has seen a 95pc drop in redundancies since 2010, coupled with successive falls in unemployment.
These positive findings have been underscored by rising levels of self-employment – with enterprise courses linked to the council creating 202 new businesses in the past year.
And Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services (NWES) expects this trend to continue, as it forecasts a 57pc rise in the number of city start-ups launched by its programmes compared to two years ago.
But despite strong signs that the city’s economic health has improved since the recession, concerns remain that sluggish wage growth is squeezing people’s finances as house prices continue to rise.
The key areas targeted by the report – which has yet to go before the council’s cabinet – include: business and enterprise; skills and employment; infrastructure for business; and profile and investment.
It states: “Over the past year, claimant count unemployment has fallen dramatically in Norwich, reflecting the national level.
“The fall has occurred across the board, with a reduction in unemployment across all ages and durations.
“There is increased confidence in the local business community with businesses of all sizes across a range of sectors all reporting increasing sales and orders,” it added.
“Although it would seem the local economy is picking up, the commercial property market is still relatively flat; this is particularly noticeable in the office market. House prices have risen around 4pc over the year, slightly below the increase seen nationally.
“Business growth and confidence has not so far been translated into wage growth and Norwich residents’ wage rates also remain below the national average.”
Kevin Horne, chief executive of NWES, is confident the rise in self-employment will continue and expects to create 275 start-up businesses in Norwich this year, compared with 175 in 2012 and 225 in 2013.
“We are expecting to see a lot more business created this year than we have seen last year. The economy is improving and there are certainly more roses in the garden. That is why people are feeling more confident about setting up businesses. We have found that the city firms we have helped through our Ready For Business programme are growing faster than the national average, and they are appointing staff faster than the national average as well.
“However, what is surprising is that people are relying on borrowed funds a lot less than they have done in the past. We have found that there is a much lower demand for bank finance. People are either starting their businesses from their own funds or managing their costs better.”
Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, welcomed the fall in redundancies, but questioned whether it showed the full picture of the city’s employment.
“The larger redundancy figures between 2009/10 and 2011/2012 could be caused by larger organisations downsizing during this period – including Aviva in Norwich,” he said.
“However, these redundancy statistics may not take into account the people who take voluntary redundancy, are reorganised within an organisation, or have left a company and not been replaced. That said it is a good figure, and it is great to see that positivity returning.”
Chris Dashper, head of programmes at New Anglia LEP, added: “The city’s economy is clearly moving in the right direction. This also reflects what businesses are telling us – that they are looking to invest and grow. We have seen an increase in applications for our Growing Business Fund. This funding scheme has already helped 50 businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk and is set to create 675 new jobs.”
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