The South East’s position as one of the more prosperous areas of the UK, in terms of both lifestyle and work looks set to continue, as demonstrated by the findings of Lambert Smith Hampton’s UK Vitality Index Report 2015 in which Guildford came out as the top destination in the UK, with other cities in the region dominating the list.
The Office of National Statistics House Price index shows that, only behind the ever booming London property market, the South East has taken the lead in rising house prices, with an 11.5% increase in the last 12 months. The average house price in the South East now sits at £339,000, with a UK national average of £285,000 (£208,000 excluding the South East and London).
The increasing optimism in the region is also supported by improving statistics reported by the Insolvency Service. The most recent statistics suggest that companies are continuing to remain strong across the UK, reflected by an increase in average turnover of 5.8% over the last calendar year in the South East. In terms of insolvency procedures, liquidations are at their lowest annual total since 2008, administrations since 2004 and company voluntary arrangements since 2007. In 2014, 14,040 companies entered into liquidation, a decrease of 6.3% on the previous calendar year. Bankruptcy figures for individuals are also at their lowest level since 2005.
The South East is responsible for nearly 14.9% of the UK’s economic output, which continues to be assisted by the region’s low unemployment rates, and ever increasing confidence within businesses, as demonstrated by a recent UK Business Confidence Monitor Report prepared by the ICAEW and Grant Thornton reporting that confidence is at an “all-time high” in the region. This is despite some uncertainty due to the upcoming general election, similar to that experienced by many businesses during the run up to the Scottish referendum.
A number of key infrastructure and business developments are proposed for the area which will likely only add to business confidence in the market including:
- Plans for various supermarket openings in the region, including Waitrose in Guildford, Bagshot and Leatherhead..
- Continuing investment in Gatwick Airport with the Gatwick Q6 Capital Investment Programme, alongside continued discussions as to the potential for the expansion of Gatwick airport.
- Funding for infrastructure across the south east, including £553m of the Local Growth Fund which has been committed to 80 infrastructure projects, and schemes to improve the transport network across the South East.
- Dover Harbour Board’s plans to regenerate the Dover Western Docks, which they say could create over 600 new logistics industry jobs.
The South East continues to not be held back by what has otherwise been sluggish growth across the UK, and this trend looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.