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Mixed economic outlook for Welsh county after Covid and Brexit double hit

30 Dec 2021 4 minute read
County Hall, Mold, Flintshire. © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse (CC 2.0)

Liam Randall, local democracy reporter

Flintshire is facing a mixed economic outlook after suffering a double hit caused by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report.

The report, which has been published by Flintshire Council, examines the current economic health of the county after two major events.

It says recruitment and supply chain issues hit local businesses following the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020.

It also cites the Covid crisis has having a significant impact due to the restrictions introduced to control the spread of the virus.

The dual effect has seen Flintshire drop seven places in an annual league table comparing the economic competitiveness of UK counties.

The area was ranked 149th out of 362 in the 2021 UK Competitiveness Index, which was recently published by researchers at Cardiff University and Nottingham Business School.

However, the council’s chief officer for planning, environment and economy said the fall did not necessarily represent a decline in the county’s prospects.

In a report, Andrew Farrow said: “The UK economy is undergoing a major transition as a result of two unprecedented events, the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK departure from the European Union.

“This report provides a summary of current economic conditions in the region and the county drawing from a number of sources.

“Flintshire now ranks 149th out of 362 counties, a relative fall of seven places since 2020.

“As with all indices, this may represent an improvement in the placings of other counties, not necessarily a worsening of conditions in Flintshire.

“The report finds that forecasted economic growth is likely to be slow across the UK and that all regions have localities that are being left behind although this is more prevalent in the north east, Yorkshire and Wales.”

‘Empty town centre shops’

The report shows other economic indicators in Flintshire have improved in the last 12 months, including the number of empty town centre shops.

A recent count of vacant ground floor units conducted by the council shows a better position compared to 2017.

In Flint, there were reported to be only four empty shops, a reduction from 12 previously.

Mold also fared well with just ten empty units, representing around four per cent of the total number in the town.

Mr Farrow said: “This is an extremely low level of vacancy and is expected to have improved further since the time the count was made.

“Anecdotally, there appears to be a resurgence of interest by small companies in acquiring town centre floor space for retail.”

Despite the positive outlook for large towns, he said investment by major companies was “very limited” in other areas.

The length of time shops remain empty in Flintshire is also reported to be longer than the Welsh average.

Mr Farrow said: “The council has, to date, had insufficient sources of data to monitor town centre health.

“In response, it is currently commissioning electronic footfall monitoring equipment for all town centres.

“In addition, it has appointed extra staff capacity to engage and support town centre businesses and gather first hand intelligence about trading conditions.”

The report also examines the performance of key industries in Flintshire, with manufacturing accounting for around 28 per cent of employment.

It states: “The sector, the most critical in Flintshire by scale, appears to be recovering strongly from the impacts of Covid notwithstanding issues with supply chains and recruitment.

“Locally, there remains strong business interest in investing in the county and in business expansions.

“The availability of candidates with the right skills remains a significant constraint to recovery and longer-term growth as does the availability of suitable sites and premises for investment.

“The increased cost of operating supply chains may cause a long-term competitive disadvantage to plants in Flintshire.”

The report will be considered by members of the council’s Covid recovery committee at a meeting next Thursday (January 6, 2021).

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