Exclusive by Jodie Nesling
Tourism and the isle’s creative industries have generated millions towards Thanet’s economy, helping the district leap 13 points up the UK Competitiveness Index – but it still ranks in the bottom 20 UK authorities.
The report is released every three years and is undertaken by academics at Nottingham and Cardiff universities.
Analysis is based on a number of factors including employment figures, the number of start-ups registered in the area and gross weekly pay.
Thanet was ranked 370 out of 377 UK authorities in 2015 and has moved to 357 in 2019. Eight of the top ten performing authorities are located in the capital with the City of London claiming the top spot.
The improvement comes as the isle recorded an increase in visitors to the area with a number of new businesses opening over the past few years, but there is more to be done.
Thanet is still ranked bottom for the South East and is forecast to register long-term annual decline in GDP per capita at (-0.34%)
The news comes as Thanet council plan to slash services to tourism which has helped stimulate the economy and is expected to return millions with the Turner prize coming to Margate this year.
Protests over the clock tower toilet closure and a petition to save tourism jobs have taken place amid growing anger within the community over what they say are short sighted decisions undertaken by Thanet council.
This is the first time the index data has been determined by Local Authority district which researchers say represents a more accurate picture. The figures take into account GDP, unemployment figures, NVQ skill level and wages.
Speaking exclusively to The Isle of Thanet News the report’s lead author, Professor Robert Huggins says the isle performs below average in all indices but there are positive signs.
He said: “These types of start-up businesses (tourism) generally offer lower wages. There are also far more start-ups in other areas. There is more productivity around technology, innovation and manufacturing business (which Thanet lacks). But the area’s ripe for growth and it certainly seems that Thanet is on the right track – the local authority should have a cohesive strategy for all areas. Patience is needed to see change in the long term.”
But the lack of major employers in the area is problematic.
Prof Huggins said: “Some start-ups have really good ideas but lack the business knowledge needed to progress. Mentoring from larger companies -such as what happened with the digital city (Shoreditch, London)- helps.”
Losses at the port of Ramsgate and uncertainty over Brexit are said to the play a part in the figures; However private investment such as Dreamland and the new Dreamland hotel and the Turner Prize coming to Margate are expected to bring millions to the isle.
The UK Competitiveness Index uses a composite measure based on the following: Economic activity rate; business start-up rates per 1,000 inhabitants; number of businesses per 1,000 inhabitants; proportion of working age population with NVQ level 4 or higher; proportion of knowledge-based businesses; Gross Value Added per capita; productivity; employment rates; gross weekly pay; and unemployment rates.