The winners and losers in the UK economy in 2021 have been revealed in a comprehensive report by Raisin, one of Europe’s leading technology-led financial services companies. Although the geographical distribution of these local economies is not unexpected, favouring the south and south west, the identity of some of the top performers may be surprising.
According to the report, the London Borough of Sutton appears at an extremely impressive number six in its top ten. The success stories are primarily concentrated in the south west corridor, but Sutton stands out in the south east, beating every other London borough.
The report considered a wide range of indicators to identify those towns, cities and regions with economies in the best condition to recover quickly from the consequences of lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on data from the Office of National Statistics and the Commons Library, its comparisons included business survival rates, government spending per capita, population, employment levels and the CPI index.
Out of 343 local authorities in the UK, Sutton is ranked at a modest 80th by population. It sits on the outskirts of London but out-performs all of its neighbours for several reasons. Although London is the UK’s financial centre and the home of many multi-billion-pound international businesses, the picture across the Capital is decidedly mixed. The percentage of its population receiving state benefits is higher than in the North East, North West and West Midlands.
What is Behind Sutton’s Success?
In contrast, Sutton has a healthy employment rate of 75.4%, a booming population level and business growth since 2015 of 2.68%. Although it is one of London’s thirty-two boroughs, Sutton is a proud Surrey town. Its status as standard bearer for London and the Home Counties puts it ahead of even Hackney and Havering, two other London local authorities which have also demonstrated remarkable growth and resilience.
While it may not be home to corporate giants, Sutton has benefited from its ability to attract and nurture smaller businesses. As Anthony Impey of Be the Business puts it: “‘The picture for smaller companies is finally looking brighter”. Among other contributory factors, he identifies “a surge of innovation, technology adoption and management skills growth in 2020. Those efforts helped many companies survive.”
Sutton’s success is in contrast to many authorities in the north of England, where low birth rates, a decline in large businesses and poor investment are hampering the recovery in locations such as Hartlepool and Blackpool.
In the opinion of the co-founder of Raisin UK, Kevin Mountford, “Sutton is in a great position to bounce back economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.” He pointed to the dynamic forward planning of the local authority and its business partners: “With mass investment and development of the town centre, high street and an established hospitality sector – Sutton is definitely one London borough to watch.” Taking all relevant factors into consideration he concluded: “With a thriving population and steady business growth, it’s one of the most dynamic local economies in the UK.”
This endorsement will come as no surprise to the entrepreneurs, consumers and residents of this jewel in Surrey’s economic crown, but the recognition will be warmly welcomed.