Doubts over area’s outlook

EXPERTS have warned of a potential dip in the Tees Valley economy.

The latest economic briefing from regeneration group Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) has urged caution – despite seeing month on month reports of jobs gains.

It reports that January was another good month, but a TVU spokesman said: “Only 40 actual job losses were announced, but there are several cases of jobs being at risk due to companies going into administration such as Petroplus.”

More than 40 people, including men from areas like Hartlepool and Billingham, work at Petroplus Refining Teesside, which operates an oil storage site at Port Clarence, near Hartlepool.

The oil refinery giants said last month that they planned to file for insolvency. Petroplus reported a net loss of £265m in the first nine months of last year, while in December its banks withdrew a £675m portion of its £1.29bn credit facility.

The good news, said TVU, was that the Tees Valley area had suffered no major job losses since the spring of last year.

But the spokesman added: “These trends can be affected by significant individual announcements.”

At the moment, though, the news remains positive.

The economic outlook report added: “More than 350 job gains were reported in the press in January – lower than in December but at a comparable level to that seen during the autumn of 2011.

“Job gains in January were considerably lower than those achieved for December, but at over 350 they remained positive, considerably outnumbering job losses of around 40.

“The majority of new posts came in the engineering industry, followed by a significant amount of job creation in the retail sector.

“There were also reports of potential employment increases amongst contact centre, construction and engineering businesses in the Tees Valley. However, a number of national retail and other businesses entered administration, which could affect their Tees Valley operations and cause job losses in future.”

The briefing also tells of Lloyds TSB’s business index reporting North East firms scaling back recruitment and investment decisions, while remaining optimistic about export orders, especially from outside Europe.

TVU’s report for January also highlights positive news for the Hartlepool area, including BHS opening its 55-job store in the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, and 24 jobs being created in with the former Powlett Pub being transformed into a Greggs outlet and a Spar convenience store.

Electronic equipment manufacturers Stadium added more staff to their commercial team while accountancy firm Waltons Clark Whitehill took over one of the former Garlands Call Centre buildings at Hartlepool Marina in a move from its Victoria Road home, taking 40 staff with them.