Succeeding as a place, succeeding as a country
3. Buckinghamshire’s economy
A vital economy
Buckinghamshire has a strong £14.6bn economy with the 11th highest GDP per head in the country (amongst LEP areas in England). There are 281,000 jobs, 34,400 businesses and 544,000 residents.
We have high skills levels with over 45% of residents having a degree or equivalent qualification or higher, compared to 40% nationally. As of 2017, almost 82% of working-age adults were in work (in England, this is 75%). Earnings are high with median resident wages 15% higher than nationally.
Our strong economy is based around an entrepreneurial culture of micro businesses and SMEs with over 3 in 4 of Buckinghamshire firms employing fewer than five employees. Buckinghamshire has a strong track record of stimulating start-ups and businesses that start here, stay here. There are high business survival rates with 48% of firms that started in 2013 operating five years later, compared to the national average of 42%. Our strong education system supports this helping to train entrepreneurial skills to people of all ages from a variety of backgrounds.
Buckinghamshire’s thriving and attractive market towns are significant and growing commercial and residential centres. Amersham and Chesham are both on the tube network, and the highly-rated Chiltern Line service means many of our towns are well-connected to national transport infrastructure. East West Rail will further improve connectivity. We have a high-quality environment and natural capital assets. The county’s canals and parks, such as Black Park, make the area an attractive place to live, and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a significant asset supporting the health and wellbeing of our residents and workforce as well as our economy.
Our super strength
Buckinghamshire’s global USP is based on four super strengths, space, creative and digital, high performance tech and medtech, linked to a set of world-renowned assets.
Westcott Space Cluster including, a LEP managed Enterprise Zone, is a centre of excellence in rocket propulsion R&D for SMEs and larger firms. Recent public and private investment in excess of £20m includes £4.12m by the UK Space Agency to establish a National Space Propulsion Test Facility, a 5G step out facility as well as business incubation and innovation hubs. An impressive 10-year development plan will place Westcott at the forefront of global innovation in satellite propulsion systems and in-orbit maintenance.
Creative and digital
Pinewood is an internationally renowned centre for film production, hosting Star Wars and James Bond productions. There are 150 businesses on site with a major extension underway. The National Film and Television School (NFTS), the number one film school globally, is based in Beaconsfield, and the county is also home to the International eGames Committee. Pinewood and the NFTS lead in immersive content, pioneering the development and use of augmented reality, virtual reality and other technologies.
High performance tech
A high performance technology cluster has developed around the iconic F1 Circuit with 4,000 businesses operating within a one hour radius of Silverstone. The Silverstone Park and Tech Cluster, including a LEP managed Enterprise Zone, focuses on precision engineering with specialisations in additive manufacturing, aerodynamics and light-weight production methodologies. There are also plans to expand into a sub-regional hub of battery production, building on commercial research and development strengths.
Buckinghamshire has a heritage of working at the forefront of advances in health as the birthplace of the global Paralympic Movement and with the UK National Spinal Injuries Centre based in Stoke Mandeville. Large, international firms in the area include Janssen/Johnson and GE Healthcare. Buckinghamshire is in the first wave of eight integrated care systems, trialling new, local approaches to health and care provision. Buckinghamshire will continue to position itself at the forefront of life science innovation, including supporting the innovation campuses at Stoke Mandeville and High Wycombe.
At the heart of a growing, innovative region
Buckinghamshire is highly connected. We are an integral part of the London economy, integrated with the London tube and rail network, and are located within or close to major growth corridors. Across Buckinghamshire and our neighbouring areas, there is a knowledge intensive economy with strengths in high-tech sectors, science, and research and development. There is the potential to deliver transformational growth, create jobs and boost the economy.
‘Deliver transformational growth, create jobs and boost the economy’
Future planned investments in Buckinghamshire include East West Rail, connecting Aylesbury and Winslow to Bedford, Oxford and Bicester by 2024, and eventually Cambridge. There are major opportunities linked to Chiltern Rail routes, a rail connection to Old Oak Common and the development of the M40 corridor. Buckinghamshire will also benefit from other nationally significant investments, either within or close to the county, including potential Heathrow and London Luton Airport expansions, Western Rail Link to Heathrow Airport, and Crossrail.
We have strong relationships with our neighbours, including Berkshire and Hertfordshire. Our strong partnership working through England’s Economic Heartland focuses on sustainable growth opportunities, improved quality of life and harnessing globally renowned centres of innovation to unlock a world-class, decarbonised transport system. England’s Economic Heartland are prioritising improvements to east-west connectivity, including a southern arc connecting Buckinghamshire, Watford, southern Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
A strong economy with barriers to future growth and productivity
Buckinghamshire has a strong economy, founded on our global super strengths, connectivity and strong regional infrastructure. The future success of Buckinghamshire is critical for UK prosperity, but there are growing barriers to future growth. Economic growth was the third lowest amongst LEP areas in England between 2014 and 2018. Productivity growth is slowing in comparison to other areas, leading to the closing of the productivity gap between Buckinghamshire and the national average.
It is critical that Buckinghamshire grows sustainably, in a way which protects its
natural environment and improves the social wellbeing of our residents and workforce. There is an opportunity for Buckinghamshire to pioneer sustainable economic and housing development. For instance, the Aylesbury Garden Town sets out an ambition to create a diverse and distinct set of clean and inclusive local economies.
For our businesses to accelerate recovery and maintain our strong, vibrant local economy, it is important that they have access to specialist inward investment and Business Growth support to enable longer-term planning and growth.
Constraints to future economic growth and prosperity include
- A lack of available housing, particularly affordable homes, and business space, with house prices averaging 13 times higher than incomes, and50% of Buckinghamshire being either an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Green Belt
- Poor digital connectivity, especially in rural areas,with 7.8% full fibre coverage, compared to a 14%average in the UK
- Specific COVID-19 related job losses amongst aviation professionals at Heathrow and London Luton Airports, as well as those from the hospitality, tourism, leisure and retail sectors
- A shortage and availability of skills and labour in our key growth sectors
- Ongoing pressure on public services with spatial concentrations of health inequalities, such as a gap of seven years in life expectancy between males in the most and least deprived population quintiles
- Challenges of an ageing population on public services and labour market with 10% more residents over 90 years old than the national average and an expected growth of 147% in this age group by 2038
- High levels of traffic congestion with Aylesbury ranked as the 8th highest for hours lost to congestion in the UK in 2019 by Inrix
- Constrained opportunities for young people attending non selective secondary schools