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City will be at the helm of UK’s economic recovery, says Powerhouse report

MILTON Keynes is projected to be one of the main cities in the UK leading the nation’s post-Covid-19 recovery in 2021, according to a new report.

The latest UK Powerhouse report prepared by Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economic and Business Research says the city will be one of the top three for economic growth by Q4 2021.

At the end of last year, Milton Keynes was ranked 25th and 26th out of the top 50 cities analysed for Gross Value Added and employment respectively. Yet by Q4 2021 it is expected to rank third in the UK for economic output, with GVA growth of 7.5%

Only 36% of cities in the report are expected to increase employment levels in Q4 2021 and in line with the majority, job prospects in Milton Keynes are expected to decline following the end of the furlough scheme, with employment on -0.9% annual change, pushing the town from 26th to 34th in terms of overall rank.

The findings support last year’s UK Powerhouse report, which predicted Milton Keynes would be one of the towns in the UK to emerge strongest in terms of economic output following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, while employment is expected to be slower to recover. 

The severe downturn Milton Keynes underwent following lockdown has provides more scope for a positive recovery. With the local economy largely comprised of service industries, the report expects this sector to lead the town out of Covid-19 restrictions into economic prosperity.

As a regional distribution and logistics hub for the likes of Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Amazon based at Magna Park, the town is also expected to benefit from the return of traditional retail in addition to the ongoing boom in online sales.

Victoria Brackett, chief executive of Irwin Mitchell’s business legal services division, said: “While employment is going to be slower to recover, the town is still on track to be among the best performing economic centres in the UK by the end of this year despite the twin challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit.

“Despite having its fair share of setbacks, such as the loss of 2,000 jobs following the closure of Adelie Foods in June last year, the high skill, high demand IT and business services arms of the economy look set to deliver tangible growth.”

UK Powerhouse makes a number of recommendations to tackle the difficulties business will face coming out of lockdown. These include the need to take advantage of policies to encourage investment and improve skills and local government having bespoke plans in place to support job creation heading out of the Covid-19 crisis, when the furlough scheme ends.

The UK government also needs to prioritise the implementation of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement with as little disruption as possible to businesses and negotiate where possible to reach a smoother trading relationship with the EU post Brexit.

Ms Brackett said: “With the impact of the end of the furlough scheme expected to have a negative impact on employment, it is clear that local plans for job creation need to be in place before October. It is also clear that a resolution to some of the outstanding issues surrounding Brexit can only have a positive impact on the future outlook. 

“Supporting those SMEs in the region who export to the EU will not only enhance the economic output but can also make a positive contribution to the local jobs market.”

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