Central Bedfordshire Council engaged Andrew Graves and colleagues at TBR to undertake a study to test the assumption that Central Bedfordshire is a low Gross Value Added (GVA) and low productivity economy and, if this was found to be the case, to investigate the causes.
The study focused on analysis of secondary data to explore the economic output and productivity performance of the local economy. The first task was to establish and describe the key measures of output and productivity and to acquire the data necessary to assess these for Central Bedfordshire and comparator areas. Measures employed included total GVA, GVA per capita, GVA per filled job, GVA per hour worked and GVA per firm. The study also investigated innovation levels using granular data from the UK Innovation Survey (UKIS), accessed through the ONS Approved Researcher Scheme. The analysis used both national statistics (APS, ASHE, Census and population estimates, BRES, Business Register, Regional GVA) and business data, an area of expertise for our team and one where we can add value through the application of a longitudinal business dataset for UK businesses. The study also investigated the components of GVA and other industrial or size factors associated with the business base which might drive observed results, as well as demographic and labour market characteristics (such as levels of out-commuting).
The research found that by most measures, Central Bedfordshire is a low productivity area but this is driven by high levels of out-commuting coupled with the industrial mix within the area. Resident incomes, nevertheless, are higher than the national average indicating that the local population are accessing well paid jobs.
The study has been used by the Council to inform their approach to economic development and to inform discussions with Government and other stakeholders.