2019 has proved to be another great year for Hull. Despite all the uncertainty that Brexit has brought and continuing concerns over climate change and the risk of Hull flooding, the city has gone from strength-to-strength. Coversure Hull – Hull’s leading insurance brokers – has enjoyed another good year with requests for specialist motor, property and business insurance quotes all having risen. It’s often said that insurance, like advertising, is a good barometer for the economy as a whole. When things are good, insurance brokers do well as expanding companies need extra business insurance to cover their assets. Property owners – be they home owners or landlords – look to up the level of their cover to keep up with price rises or as they have grown their portfolios and need to update their landlord insurance. And as people buy new cars so they tend to shop around for cheap car insurance.. If this is the case then Hull’s economy is doing very nicely as across the board we’ve never been busier in nearly 15 years of trading.
So, what does 2020 hold for Hull? Will it be another year of growth and prosperity? Will the ending (?) of the Brexit uncertainty breathe new life into the economy by unlocking investment from major local businesses like KCOM and Siemens? Are we to see further growth in the local housing market? What fresh infrastructure investments can we expect to see – will the mooted plans for construction a tidal barrier come to anything and what progress will the £1.5bn Lagoon Project see?
In this new blog from Coversure Hull, Managing Director, Andy Price, looks at what’s to come in 2020 and finds plenty of reasons to be cheerful…
Hull and Brexit
I’ve looked at what Brexit means for Hull on this blog before. Our decision to leave in 2016 and the city’s overwhelming – 68% of voters – support for it was always going to have a big impact. The port’s renaissance, Siemens long-term future in the region and the opportunities that lay ahead for big local businesses such as KCOM were all thrown into doubt. While many will argue that Brexit is an opportunity for business and not a threat, even the most ardent Brexiteer will concede that the three and a half years of uncertainty that have followed have not been helpful.
As 2020 approaches we are faced with the prospect of another leaving date, this one being spearheaded by another new government and maybe even a new prime minister. The first question is will we actually leave – or at least enter the transition period – on January 31st or will there be yet another delay? I asked my friend, politics graduate and Brexit obsessive Giles Luckett for his opinion:
‘‘It all depends on what happens on the 12th December. The most likely outcome at this stage is a working Tory majority. That would take the restraints off a Johnson government and we would leave at the end of the January. Of course, if the last decade has taught us anything in politics it’s that If something can go wrong it will go out of its way to do so. There are a lot of tight election battle grounds and if the Leave/Remain question trumps traditional party loyalties as appears to be happening, then anything could happen – including another hung parliament. Changing Europe recently reported that just 6% of voters refused to align themselves with Remain or Leave. With the 10 seats in and around Hull being evenly split between Conservative and Labour, it will be fascinating to see whether Brexit swings the balance of power.’’
What we do know is that we have a withdrawal deal that (most) of the Tories can live with and if the DUP no longer hold sway then the chances of it passing are significantly higher. If it passes then the chances of a hard Brexit recede, at least for now, as we will enter trade negotiations. This won’t give business the long-term certainty it craves – if negotiions fail then a hard Brexit looms at the end of 2020 – but it will give us a little breathing space and the picture will become clearer.
In short then it seems that all eyes will be on the results come Friday the 13th (!). To my mind and to my business, any sort of certainty would be welcome at the moment.
Hull Property Market
Despite the problems that Brexit has caused in the housing market nationally, Hull has seen prices continue to rise over the past few years. A couple of years back we wrote a piece on how Hull is a property hot spot, especially when it came to rental property. The post City of Culture renaissance that has gripped much of Hull has drawn more people into the area, especially younger people who have been attracted by the exploding digital sector, and this has made it a good time to be a landlord in Hull. Again, we’ve seen a steep rise in the number of landlord insurance quote requests recently and we’re hopeful this will continue into 2020.
So, what does 2020 hold for the Hull property market? Well overall 2019 delivered a rise of around 2% to the year to September according to the Office for National Statistics. There was a slight dip earlier in the year, but in the run up to the latest set of figures the trend was firmly upward. Landlords have had a good year too. Nationally the rise in rents in 2019 is around 2%, but in Hull that’s closer to 3% with average rents now standing at £496 per calendar month.
Much of the underlying issues in the local housing market – lack of affordable housing to buy, a surge in demand as the population grows, a shortage of rental properties – won’t be solved in 2020. While there’s plenty of development going on in the city, this will take time to come on stream and it will take years to catch up with demand.
One thing that will (hopefully) be resolved is Brexit. This has cast a long shadow over the housing market as a whole. If we can see a resolution to it in 2020 then both home owners and landlords could see very good year ahead. First time buyers can also expect more help in 2020 as the new government – of whichever hue it is – will be set for a housing spending spree. All ways up, things are looking up.
New Infrastructure Projects
Cranes and construction sites seem to have become a permanent fixture in Hull lately. As outside investment pours in and the companies like KCOM work to put the infrastructure in for Hull to become a ‘“smart city” so building work has continued apace. 2020 looks destined to see this pace of development race ever faster ahead. Now I could list all the major developments that are in train, but like a Hull Trains train to London it could take all day! Instead I’ll limit myself to two:
• Hull Lagoon – this £1.5bn project has got everyone excited and I hope it comes to fruition. The plan is to create a six-mile long lagoon in the Humber. This will help address flooding issues, create improved infrastructure around the port complex – reaffirming Hull’s position as the UK’s energy estuary – and make Hull and Humber even more relevant to global logistics.
• New Tidal Barrier – as anyone who lives here knows, most of Hull lies below sea level. That’s a problem; especially given that climate change is causing sea levels to rise – positive base level changes as the geographers call it. A plan has been announced to look at building a Thames barrier style defence for Hull. Now given the estuary is wider and the cost of building one is north of £2bn this won’t happen next year (if at all) but if does go ahead it could secure the city’s future for another 100 years.
The thing I love about these projects is the ambition. The fact that Hull is considering such vast, technically challenging solutions is a testament to how our city had grown in aspiration. Hull is now officially fearless once more.
Hull Business 2020
There’s been some big business stories from some big businesses in 2019. The £627m takeover of KCOM and RB’s £200m innovation hub are just a couple that hit the headlines this year. 2020 will doubtless bring more big success stories. I will be following Siemens closely next year. Their former CEO cited Brexit as a potentially major problem for their extensive operations in the region. More recently, however – potentially helped by the prospect of hard Brexit receding, for now at least – they have been more positive regarding Hull. Last month the new CEO Carl Ennis said that Hull had a crucial role to play in the zero-carbon push. The firm makes the blades for its off-shore turbines here and has played a pivotal role in helping to transform the city’s fortunes and boost its green industry credentials.
For small businesses I can see lots of positives ahead. Brexit being sorted will allow us all to get with our lives. All the political parties are talking about sorting out business rates which will help businesses with high street outlets like mine, and there’s a promise of extra government spending and tax cuts which should allow more consumer spending. If interest rates stay low – and there’s even the possibility of a cut according to the minutes from the Bank of England’s last Monetary Policy Committee meeting – then borrowing will remain cheap and we can all afford to invest and grow.
Overall then, I believe 2020 will be a good year for Hull and I am looking forward to helping more businesses and private clients protect what matters to them.
Here’s to another brilliant year for our brilliant city,
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