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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 189

Date:- 26 February 2005

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LIVERPOOL'S ECONOMY OUTPACES THE BEST AGAIN!

INDEPENDENT Economic Health-Check confirms strong growth. Official government statistics demonstrate that the Merseyside economy is delivering sustained growth and is among the fastest growing regions in the UK. In 2002 the Merseyside economy grew by 6% (Gross Value Added, the measure of economic prosperity). This is ahead of 5.2% in the North West, and 5.1% in the UK as a whole. Merseyside's GVA per capita - which measures workforce productivity - has grown by 6.2%, faster than any other of our city region comparators. In fact Merseyside is the second fastest growing location in the UK, just a touch behind Inner London.

Liverpool, at the heart of Merseyside, is the UK's fastest growing Metropolitan City. Building on the success of last year, this year's figures are even better for the City Region. Liverpool's economic output (GVA per head) grew by 7.2% over the year. Between 1998 and 2003 over 43,000 jobs were created in Merseyside, an increase of 7.8% ahead of the North West (7.3%) and the UK (5.6%). Merseyside's employment rate, the number of residents in work, rose to 67.3% in 2003 up from 66.1% in 2002 and only 6.8% behind the UK rate indicating steady progress over the previous five years. At current rates of increase Merseyside should rival, or exceed, the UK within a decade.

In 2003 Merseyside had 26,025 businesses registered for VAT a 2.2% increase on the previous year and outstripping business growth rates for the North West (1.3%) and the UK 0.9%. The Liverpool City Region's sustained economic performance is bench-marked in the Merseyside Economic Review 2005 (MER 05) the third annual economic health check for the City Region published by The Mersey Partnership on Thursday 24 February 2005. 

The Merseyside Economic Review 2005 will be launched at a special event hosted by Rob McLoughlin, Presenter of ITV's 'The Sunday Supplement' and 'The Last Word' and held at the FACT Centre, Liverpool. The event will be attended by 250 delegates representing the private and public sectors on Merseyside who will listen to a keynote address from Rachel Lomax, Deputy Governor, Bank of England. 

The Review relies on official, national data, which allows it to benchmark Merseyside's economic performance against the North West, the UK and other City Regions. Using key economic indicators including GVA, business start-up rates, employment patterns and earnings, housing and infrastructure, the MER 05 provides a comprehensive overview of the sub-regional economy and is an invaluable tool for informing and shaping the opinion of regional and national stakeholders who contribute to the regeneration of Merseyside. Independent advice is sought during its compilation from a specialist advisory panel which includes David Walton, Managing Director and Chief European Economist of Goldman Sachs; Andrew Dilnot, one of the UK's leading economists and Warden of St Hugh's Oxford and Ray Shosta, Director Public Services Directorate, HM Treasury.

The MER 05 reveals that Merseyside is the fifth best-performing sub-region in the country (from the set of 37) for GVA growth in 2002 6% and against our City Region comparators is placed second behind West Yorkshire Leeds at 6.2%. The MER 05 also records that Liverpool at 7.2% has outpaced all core city competitors re-affirming the continued strong performance noted in the MER 2004. 

In addition the MER 05 reports that in the five-year period between 1998 and 2003 more than 43,000 additional jobs were created in Merseyside an increase of 7.8% ahead of the North West 7.3% and the UK 5.6%. 2 of our Boroughs continue to have amongst the highest job growth rates in the UK. Knowsley is ranked third out of 203 national local authorities with 30% growth over the same period and St Helens is ranked in the top 10% at 20th with a 16% increase. 

Unemployment has continued to fall. The Claimant unemployment rate for December 2004 is 3.5%, higher than our comparator cities and higher than the NW 2.2% and the UK 2.2%. However, the consistent fall in the figure throughout 2004 from 3.9% in January, representing a reduction of 5,225 claimants is encouraging and real evidence that the process of closing the gap is underway and sustained. 

Thomas O'Brien, Chief Executive of The Mersey Partnership said:- "The findings in our third Merseyside Economic Review provide independent evidence from national data of how our economic improvement is outpacing UK and North West averages. It reports on a period of intense and exciting economic development for Merseyside. The region has seen consistent jobs growth, a buoyant housing market, steady inward investment and the first stages of an ambitious programme of infrastructure improvements. Liverpool is increasingly in the international spotlight after being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as the momentum of the European Capital of Culture 2008 status continues to build. The MER also serves to point out the challenges facing us all in the next decade if we are to see sustained growth for our economy, catching up and being really competitive within the UK."

Further encouraging news contained in the MER includes:- 

Benefit dependency in Merseyside is being reduced at a faster rate than the national average. Over the last five years Merseyside has improved its economic activity rate by 2% to 72% while the figure for the UK has remained static (78%). The challenge is to accelerate the pace of change and match the UK rate within a decade.

Overall population has stabilized with an increase in the working age population between 2002 and 2003 of 4,400 

Merseyside's business survival rate (93.9%) outstrips the North West (91.5%) and the UK (92.2%). Merseyside has a higher business survival rate after 1 and 3 years than its comparators. 

The Review also draws attention to the challenges that will have a bearing on the future economic growth of the Liverpool City Region including:-

Increasing the pace of growth of our economic wealth to bring our productivity up towards the national average

Sustaining or accelerating the employment rate increases to match the UK rate of employment within the next decade

Accelerating the growth in new businesses to outpace our regional and city region comparators

MINIMUM WAGE ABOVE £5 THIS OCTOBER

GUARANTEED pay rise for 1.3 million low paid workers. The national minimum wage will rise above £5 for the first time from October 2005, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced today.

The adult rate of the minimum wage will increase from £4.85 to £5.05 in October 2005 - in line with average earnings, with a further 6% increase to £5.35 in October 2006. The rise is in line with the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission, and takes the minimum wage, in 2006, to almost 50% above its 1999 introduction rate.

The latest increases will extend coverage of the minimum wage to 1.3 million workers in October 2005 and 1.4 million workers in October 2006. Announcing these increases Mrs Hewitt said:- "The great news is that well over a million workers will receive a guaranteed pay rise by this October, rising to almost a million and a half people by October 2006. The minimum wage has made a real difference to the lives of thousands of low paid workers - particularly women, who make up some 70% of those benefitting. Year on year increases protect some of society's most vulnerable people from exploitative rates of pay.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the national minimum wage has not affected the job prospects of low-paid workers in the UK. Unemployment is at record low and a record 28 million people are now in work."


The Government has also:-

* agreed that the Low Pay Commission should review the 2006 rates, taking into account the latest economic conditions;

* agreed that the youth rate, which applies to 18-21 year olds, should rise to £4.25 in October 2005 and £4.45 in October 2006;

* agreed that the Commission should review the operation of the 16 to 17 year old rate and report in 2006;

* announced that it will keep the issue of whether to put 21 year old workers onto the adult rate under review. 

* agreed that the Commission should review the minimum wage treatment of benefits in kind including where those benefits are offered as part of a salary sacrifice arrangement.

Ms Hewitt also announced more than £3 million has been recovered from bosses who have not been paying the national minimum wage since April 2004. The total amount recovered from employers since the introduction of the national minimum wage in April 1999 is now nearly £20 million. The Government will shortly be announcing further measures to tackle serious non-compliant employers.

MHRA TO CLAMP DOWN ON UNETHICAL ADVERTISING

THE MHRA will be naming and shaming companies which engage in misleading advertising of their pharmaceutical products, or which show poor practice in the way they set about their advertising and promotional campaigns.

This is the message from new, tougher guidance, which is being launched at the Agency's first ever seminar on advertising, being held in London today. At the seminar, which is being attended by a wide range of industry representatives, the Agency will explain the new guidance and how it will be implemented.

Speaking about the launch of the new guidance, Professor Kent Woods , Chief Executive of the MHRA, said:- "Most pharmaceutical advertising is carefully and responsibly put together, and the very best advertising helps health professionals and the public to make informed choices about healthcare. However, we have seen a number of examples of poor practice, where advertising is confusing or misleading. It is vital that we tackle this type of poor practice swiftly and effectively."

The main changes in the new guidance are:-

- Tougher measures against poor practice. As well as any legal action which the Agency pursues over unlawful practice, it will also be publishing every review of an advert on its website, and "naming and shaming" those companies which engage in poor practice.

- Greater scrutiny. Companies which regularly breach the guidelines will be subject to review of their whole advertising portfolio to ensure that it meets the appropriate standards.

- Greater efficiency. The Agency has put in place more streamlined processes to ensure that advertising is reviewed as quickly as is consistent with a thorough and rigorous consideration.

Prof Woods continued:- "The MHRA is committed to carrying out its functions in as open and transparent a way as possible. These new measures allow the public and health care professionals to see clearly how the MHRA is going about its work. Just as importantly, they protect the public's health by allowing people to see in a timely and clear way where they may have been misled by poor advertising.

The key principle behind the guidelines is that they must protect the public, by preventing people from being misled by poor advertising. It is important that the guidelines evolve to reflect public perception; over the next year, we are planning to hold discussions with a number of patient representatives to assess whether the guidelines meet that need, or whether further changes are required. If necessary, we will further revise the guidance in the light of those discussions."

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