The first working paper from IPPR's Commission on Sustainable Development in the South East compares the South East's economic performance with other regions and economies with in the UK and Europe.

Key findings of the paper are:

  1. That GDP/GVA per head in the South East compares well with what are generally regarded as the EU's most prosperous substantive regions containing all the well-known centres of commerce in Europe outside of London and Paris.
  • The labour market in the South East is relatively tight but it is not overheating.
  • Skills shortages and skills gaps do not seem to be a bigger problem in the South East than in other English regions. The South East can pull in graduates from across the UK and to a certain extent from abroad and is not constrained by the supply of highly qualified people from within the region.
  • There are serious disparities in economic prosperity within the region, with certain groups (for example, people with disabilities) and certain areas (for example, Thanet) within the South East continuing to have relatively low levels of employment.
  • Further increasing the rate of economic growth in the South East does not seem a high priority relative to dealing with disparities in prosperity within the region and coping with the problems that current levels of relative economic success pose, particularly in terms of traffic congestion, the lack of affordable housing, the use of natural resources and the quality of the environment.

This is not the same as arguing for 'no-growth' or even 'lower growth'. At the very least it is merely suggesting that the current rate of growth is acceptable as an economic objective, though this will pose challenges for achieving environmental objectives in the region.