“The Eastern Powerhouse and Norwich are a match made in heaven”, says Eastern Powerhouse chair, James Palmer

At a regional meeting in Norwich today, chair of the Eastern Powerhouse, James Palmer, called on Westminster to raise its level of investment in the East of England – which currently sits at about half that invested in other UK regions.  

Speaking to a gathering of regional businesses alongside Norwich North MP, Chloe Smith, James Palmer said:  

“Linking the economies of the East of England together through strategic investment in transport, telecommunications, and tech could supercharge growth and create more jobs and opportunities across the country. Norwich is well-placed to lead this charge. Prior to the pandemic, it was one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, and it continues to play host to many world-leading businesses and sectors. We cannot afford to continue underestimating Norwich – or indeed the East of England as a whole. Doubling-down on the success story of this city and region should be a top priority in government, as this will deliver not just for the people of the East, but for the whole of the UK”.  

Norwich is the administrative, educational, cultural, and employment heart of the county of Norfolk. It is home to 98,000 jobs and more than 6,400 businesses, with roughly half of these being based in large companies. Economic activity (86.9%) and employment rates (84.1%) in the city are high, beating both the regional (81% and 77.9% respectively), and national (78.4% and 74.8%) averages.

Norwich city centre is a regional hub for many high-value industries, including businesses that specialise in finance, business services, media and publishing, and manufacturing. In addition, the wider urban area surrounding Norwich hosts many sectors forecast to become drivers of growth nationally – such as health science, food tech, and advanced manufacturing – are also well-represented in its wider urban area.

However, the city is not without its challenges:

  • Norwich has a slightly lower skilled population (40.2%) than the national average (43.5%) – measured by the amount of people who hold a qualification at level 4 or above.
  • This is contributing to a relatively low waged economy, with residents` earnings (£601.4) sitting below the regional (£628.6) and national average (£628.6).
  • The city also performs particularly poorly for social mobility, scoring 294th out of 324 local authorities in a 2017 study.

Fortunately, Eastern Powerhouse is well-positioned to help address some of these barriers to growth. In her speech, Chloe Smith expanded on this point:

“The Eastern Powerhouse needs Norwich, but also it is fair to say Norwich needs to work with its neighbours, and so Norwich needs the Eastern Powerhouse as well… I want to see inward investment from companies, and I want to see government using taxpayers money to level up here in the East just as we are doing in other parts of the country as well. And we know that it’s a better argument here than in other parts of the country, because you invest in East Anglia, and you get more jobs for your investment”

If the East of England were able to level up to the South-East (excluding London) in terms of GDP per capita (a not unachievable goal), the Eastern Powerhouse would deliver:

  • An extra £31.2bn a year in GDP;
  • £11.5bn of additional tax-take for the Exchequer; and
  • An annual increase in per capita disposable income for East of England residents of £3,100.

Says James Palmer again:

“This is precisely why we have created The Eastern Powerhouse. We are developing plans to leverage the region’s assets — our world-leading university towns, our high-tech port facilities, our specialisms in agritech, life sciences and green technologies. The Powerhouse will frame the argument for higher levels of investment and growth. Crucially, in doing so, we will level up the life chances of people in the region so they can fulfil their potential without having to desert the places and the communities they come from, and which need them.”

The Eastern Powerhouse is holding a series of regional meetings in July to identify pan-regional and local economic priorities and bring these urgently to the attention of the Government. The Norwich meeting is the fifth in the series. The first was held in Peterborough on 27 May; further meetings have been held in Ipswich, Cambridge, and Huntingdon, with another scheduled in Boston.