Norfolk still at bottom of salary pile

Who have been the winners and losers in wage increases and cuts across the region?

For many firms, in the past two years, the subject of pay rises has been a sticky issue.

The recession saw employees willing to work reduced or flexible hours or accept better benefits instead of pay increases to help their employers stay afloat.

The best staff were retained or retrained.

However, according to a Norfolk-recruitment firm's annual survey, now in its eighth year, there have been modest increases in wages across the region and there are signs of growth - especially in IT.

Salaries in many sectors covered by the survey across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex have evened out. But, again, Norfolk remains at the bottom of the salary pile.

Where there have been pay rises, they have come at a price.

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Jane Lovell, of Norwich-based Cooper Lomaz, which carries out the Annual Salary Review, said one of the main themes this year has been multi-skilling and combined roles to contain costs.

HR recruitment has, for example, been merged with learning and development.

In accountancy in some SMEs the finance director role has been down-graded to financial controller level which is a sign of driving costs down.

However, Ms Lovell said: 'We are seeing new business, particularly E-commerce business and digital marketing.'

This was as businesses look to new media, digital marketing and alternative routes to market.

'Clients are also looking for more skills and competancies. They want people who are on brand and on message,' she said.

However, with unemployment still high, it is still a tough market for prospective employees, says Dr Susan Sayce, Norwich Business School human resources lecturer.

'Older people finding themselves out of employment and those looking for their first jobs cannot find employment,' she said. 'There has been an increase in part-time work, which people might accept but are still looking for a full-time post.'

She said there was evidence the East of England has not been hit has hard and there has been more growth compared to other regions.

Unemployment figures due out today from the Office for National Statistics are forecast to show a drop of just 1,500 on unemployment benefits nationally.

Numbers claiming job seekers allowance dropped in Norfolk last month, by 201 to 15,904, partly attributed to demand for seasonal workers in the run up to Christmas.

However, she said while the private sector had had two years during the recession to make cuts, implement flexible working or retain their best staff, the impact of public sector job losses was yet to hit.

With public sector numbers having grown from 410,000 in 1999 to 459,000 in 2009, the impact could be hard if there are not private sector jobs available, she said.

'There is a high ratio of public sector workers - although that does now include the banks bailed out by the gvernment. If one of the banks were to lose hundreds of jobs it could affect East Anglia,' she said.

'I think it is a case of watch this space.'

t Salaries for many accountancy profession salaries, including directors, finance directors, financial controllers and audit managers remained flat.

Salaries for production managers and operation directors and most roles in food manufacturing were also stationary.

Roles in IT also saw flat salaries rises.

Areas seeing a drop in salary were graduate engineers, brand managers and sales and marketing directors, who saw a �20,000 drop in their top end salary offer.

Those seeing a rise in their starting salaries included marketing assistants - although the top end salary offer was less than the previous year for this role.

The biggest rise was seen in wages of change management personnel - reaching �100,000 at the top end in Cambridgeshire and Essex.

t Wage levels in Norfolk still lag behind the rest of the region, according to the survey results opposite (for a full list go to

Ranking each of the salary groups listed by the highest paid county saw Cambridgeshire come out on top by some margin. In close second and third was Suffolk, followed by Essex with Norfolk in fourth.

Norfolk was in the same position last year but, in quite a change, it was Essex that was out in front by some margin, followed by Cambridgeshire and then Suffolk in close second and third.

Wages drops in Essex – which saw director's top end pay bracket drop from �80,000 to �65,000 – and higher wages in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, which overall saw higher increases, influenced the change.


t IT

Demand has been driven by more firms looking to new media and alternative routes to market, said Cooper Lomaz.

'IT is buoyant particularly with the growth in e-commerce business,' said Mark Fletcher, business manager for Cooper Lomaz's Norwich office.

IT departments are leaner, multi-skilled and more commercial, acting as a driver for the business as much as an enabler, he said.

Firms have invested in software and websites - including Cooper Lomaz - and there has been more emphasis on digital marketing.

Tom Wood, joint founding director of user experience website design agency Foolproof, based in Queen Street, Norwich, said digital was one of the first sectors to head out of recession last year.

'Many companies have been thinking only tactically about IT and digital over the last couple of years during the downturn,' he said. 'But now we are seeing more and more strategic projects like new ecommerce platforms and multi-channel initiatives which will create demand for IT talent.'

However, Foolproof was finding it 'extremely difficult' to recruit skilled staff so they usually take inexperienced people on and train them up. It currently has seven vacancies at its Norwich offices alone.

'Schools, colleges and universities haven't spotted the growth in demand for user experience and simply aren't delivering young people with the skills we're after.'

With more competition for niche skills, the survey also says East Anglia will need to compete with business rates in the South.

In marketing, some companies are turning to agencies rather than employing full time staff. With more candidates available due to continued redundancies in the public and banking sectors, salaries have also dropped slightly, said Cooper Lomaz.

Firms are also less likely to pay the higher end of salary ranges offered.

t Food manufacturing and fresh produce

One area that has remained buoyant throughout 2010 is food manufacturing and fresh produce, said Cooper Lomaz.

Companies have been investing more in machinery and staff, which has led to a shortage of electrical-based engineers and new product development technologists, according to the survey.

Demand for quality and technical roles have increased as businesses focus on standards and new product lines to keep customers interested.

One firm that has invested - in a new premises at Broadland Business Park - is D&F McCarthy.

Martin McCarthy, of the family run fruit and vegetable wholesaler, said they had increased staffing from between 38 to 42 to about 49 now and up to 52 during peak times as a result of the move.

'The market is very good,' he said. 'It has always been inflation proof and not followed the trends other businesses have.

'There is also, I think, more interest in local food and in the independents sector. A lot more people are going for farm shops.'

However, while recruitment in the wholesale business was not difficult, he said suppliers have major problems finding people to do labour in fields, which resulted in some cases in firms investing in machinery to replace people.

'The growers do find it difficult to get local people to do the work.

t Engineering

The engineering market division reported a move from design to manufacturing engineering and maintenance as companies either introduced new products or upgraded machinery.

There was competition for staff particularly in Engineering, IT and HR.

'Although generally there are high levels of response to jobs there are some areas where we are struggling to recruit specific skills, said Ms Lovell.

'Also because of the economic uncertainty some people are passive about changing jobs which is where social networking and contacts come in.'

tCooper Lomaz currently has around 300 jobs on offer and is looking to run its own graduate recruitment scheme in 2011.

Cooper Lomaz is run and was founded by Jane Lovell and Charlotte Cooper in the last recession in the 1990s. It has offices in Norwich and Bury St Edmunds.