Succeeding as a place, succeeding as a country

4. The Opportunity Accelerated Recovery

The Recovery Challenge

The initial freezing of large parts of the economy as part of the COVID-19 lockdown has already produced unprecedented economic impacts. We now know that COVID-19 restrictions are likely to be in place for at least the next six months. The major priority for the UK will be to recover economically, whilst managing future waves of the virus. Individual and family livelihoods, the viability of our town centres, and of our public finances all depend on effective and rapid economic recovery.

Buckinghamshire has challenges in reducing health inequalities for our communities. Most areas in Buckinghamshire, are ranked highly (health deprivation is relatively low). However, within this overall finding of low health deprivation, 19 ‘small areas’ rank more deprived than the England average for health deprivation. Three areas rank within the 30% most deprived across England.

Geographically, health deprivation is more common nationally in urban areas and this pattern occurs in Buckinghamshire. Health deprivation is more prevalent in the north of the county. Of the three most health-deprived areas (ranked by the Health Deprivation and Disability domain), two are located in Aylesbury, the third in Buckingham.

If the first six months of the crisis have accelerated existing economic and technological trends, the next six months may well entrench them. Our economy

has been impacted by the pandemic with 63,000 of our residents furloughed, a 34% reduction in job postings and a 40% reduction in footfall in our county town. However, we have also seen opportunities such as those presented by a reduction in out commuting by highly skilled professionals.

‘Buckinghamshire has been more resilient to the impact of the crisis than other parts of the country.’

Early evidence has shown that the Buckinghamshire economy has been more resilient to the impact of the crisis than other parts of the country, and is recovering more quickly. This is despite significant challenges, such as the impact on our residents of the loss of highly skilled aviation jobs at Heathrow and London Luton Airports.

It is critical that Buckinghamshire is able to respond positively to these challenges and opportunities as we can accelerate recovery for the UK. Our strong economy, key sectoral super strengths, and connectivity position us to lead new ways of working, and the new normal economy post-COVID-19. Furthermore, our position as England’s newest unitary with a uniquely integrated council, public service and business leadership enables us to make things happen quickly and effectively.

Our recovery priorities

Many of our residents have been, or are likely to be impacted, by the significant drop in activity at Heathrow and London Luton Airports. Over 2,000 residents work on-site at Heathrow Airport with many more working at London Luton and in our airport supply chains. This is an opportunity for job matching, bringing people displaced from aviation and other industries into our key growth sectors such as health and social care.

Health and social care is the largest employer in Buckinghamshire and has significant labour and skills demands. Being at the forefront of healthcare innovation, it will be important to utilise our assets, including the world-renowned National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, to overcome health inequalities given the greater impact of COVID-19 on people living in poor health and deprivation.

The long-term growth and local significance of space, creative and digital, high performance technology and medtech are unlikely to be impacted by COVID-19. With changes in business practices and the rapid uptake of technology, the pandemic may lead to greater cross-sector innovation as firms pivot and diversify.

Prior to COVID-19, 34% of residents commuted out of Buckinghamshire. With high levels of home working likely to be in place for the next six months and into the future, this is a significant opportunity for Buckinghamshire to position itself as a regional working hub.

We can add £10bn to the UK economy if we are given the tools to accelerate UK recovery

By growing our high-tech sectors, investing in infrastructure, front-loading the building of carbon-neutral houses (on existing targets), and improving skills levels, rapid job matching and career pathways, we can return to the higher levels of productivity that we experienced in 2010. This will reverse the relative decline in productivity growth we have seen since and put us back at the level of 15% higher productivity than the national average.

With greater investment in Buckinghamshire, we can recover this position by 2028, growing at 1.5% per annum. Between 2028 and 2060, growing at 0.6% per annum, Buckinghamshire’s productivity will continue to be 15% higher than the UK. By 2050, our economy will be £10bn larger than in 2018.

Source: Metro Dynamics projections

Economic rationale

Buckinghamshire has a proven track record of delivery with strong partnerships and a coterminous geography. We are integrated with London and at the centre of major growth corridors with good connectivity. There are strengths in future growth sectors and world renowned assets with a culture of entrepreneurship. We are well placed to lead new working and the new normal economy-post COVID-19.

The opportunity

  • LOCALLY: Maximise the potential from new ways of working and changing business practices to benefit existing residents, improving access to employment and training and attract new people and businesses.
  • NATIONALLY: Accelerate our leading contribution to UK recovery through high-tech sectors, carbon-neutrality and the future success of London and South East

What Buckinghamshire needs

  • Powers and funding to front-load the delivery of high-quality, affordable and carbon-neutral housing (accelerating delivery of existing targets)
  • Continued investment in repurposing town centres for residential and business
  • Powers and funding for reskilling of the workforce
  • Investment in business networks and the innovation ecosystem
  • Improved digital connectivity

Key growth and development opportunities

Buckinghamshire has a number of key growth and development opportunities in the county. Accelerating the delivery of these will be a key focus of the Recovery and Growth Deal.

Buckinghamshire has three Enterprize Zones linked to nationally significant assets with potential for expansion and enhancement. Major housing developments include Aylesbury Garden Town (16,000 homes) and Princes Risborough (2,500 homes), providing high-quality homes with opportunities to embrace smart technology, develop green corridors and encourage active and sustainable travel.