8 things you need to know about UK regional growth

8 December 2016 | By Patrick Day

What drives the differences in growth and productivity across regions and nations? And what can be done to fix disparities? The CBI’s Unlocking Regional Growth report, in partnership with Irwin Mitchell, uncovers eight things we need to know to help the UK answer these questions

£208bn: the potential increase in UK gross value added if businesses and government work together to improve productivity.

2.5x: at £48.48 per hour, productivity in the London borough of Wandsworth is almost two-and-a-half times higher than in Blackpool, the least productive area of the UK at £20.24 per hour. Wandsworth is the most productive area of the UK.

Education and skills

Age 16: educational attainment is the most important driver of productivity differences around the UK, as shown by our analysis using a range of measures of school outcomes and performance, internal migration patterns and supported by the views of our members.

90%: the proportion of people in the workforce today who will still be in employment in 10 years’ time - so on-the-job training and lifelong learning has a crucial role to play in driving productivity.


16 million: the total number of people who could be available to work across a wider geography in the North of England if travel times were reduced. This is the same number of workers within an hour of London today.

+ 14%: productivity benefits of up to 14 per cent could be reached by reducing journey times by road within some regions, particularly in cities such as Leicester and Liverpool, where a large number of workers live just outside the urban area.

Management practices

531: the number of business support programmes available across the UK, including 147 in Northern Ireland and 152 in Wales. Business support initiatives that overlap one another could be consolidated, making it simpler for businesses and cutting costs for government.


10-15%: between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of firms in most regions currently don’t, but could be, exporting. International ownership, a high level of research and development, and a higher proportion of employees who are graduates all make a firm more likely to export.

The CBI’s recommendations

Now is the right time to shape a more productive economy across the UK and unlock growth in all regions and nations. In the CBI report, we have made three recommendations for the UK and devolved Governments:

  1. Adhere to the three principles of devolution: align devolution to economic geographies, devolve powers to the right level, and hold local leaders to account
  2. Integrate evidence from what drives productivity growth at a local level into the new Industrial Strategy being developed by the UK and devolved governments in partnership with business
  3. Continue to prioritise investment in education, infrastructure, empowering local business leaders and building efforts to support potential exporters.

Irwin Mitchell have partnered with the CBI on the work. Vicky Brackett, CEO of Irwin Mitchell’s Business Legal Services division, sets out why they are keen to support this campaign:

“Increasing productivity across the UK’s economy is a subject Irwin Mitchell is passionate about, particularly as it can drive greater prosperity and ensure all businesses are able to reach their full potential.

“We are fully supportive of this CBI campaign and welcome their evidence based approach which looks at each region closely and identifies tailored solutions to boosting productivity.

“There are some significant challenges ahead but if businesses and government can make it a priority and work closely together, then I genuinely believe that economic growth within our regions can be unlocked.”