Winchester: bitten by the recession?

Winchester’s bustling High Street shows little sign of a global economic crisis, but scratch beneath the surface and it is easy to see the effects of the recession.

Winchester High Street by neilalderney123

Winchester High Street by neilalderney123

Winchester is one of the most affluent districts in the United Kingdom, with some of Hampshire’s most expensive houses. But the average Hampshire house price dropped nearly £30,000 in the two years from October 2007 to October 2009, according to Land Registry statistics.

Even so, the October 2009 price remained nearly £38,000 higher than the England and Wales average.

Winchester Goadsby estate agent Mark Thomas said: “House prices haven’t changed much here because it is an affluent area, so there isn’t a lot of borrowing.”

As for jobs, Winchester’s unemployment rate is 3.1 percent lower than the national 5.5 percent average, but workers are still feeling the bite of an economic crisis.

Nearly double the number of people claimed job seekers allowance in Winchester in October this year (1,250) compared to October 2008 (667), according to the Government’s residence-based unemployment rates.

Unemployment hit young people particularly hard. According to Government wider ILO figures in October, unemployment among under 25s in Winchester was disproportionately high at 30%.

Winchester Liberal Democrat Prospective MP, Martin Tod said youth are the worst affected when companies freeze recruitment.

Redundancies have also hit the area. Regional employer Twinings is threatening to shed more than 100 jobs at its Andover factory.

The upmarket tea company plans to move the majority of production to Poland and China to retain profitability, even though it claims “to have been at the heart of London for more than 300 years.”

BAE Systems also recently announced redundancies across the UK as a result of reduced workloads. The cull includes the loss of 111 jobs at the nearby BAE electronics facility in Farnborough.

Neither have white-collar workers escaped redundancy. Hampshire County Council recently threatened to axe up to 35 computer service jobs at its Winchester headquarters to save £1 million by merging IT services . The council has already shed eight senior manager posts.

Winchester Cathedral is a UK tourist attraction. The building has 7th century origins, the grave of novelist Jane Austen and was a location for the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

Yet it has also felt the bite. The Diocese of Winchester recently announced up to £1.5m budget cuts for 2010 because the recession affected people’s ability to give generously. It could mean the loss of a number of clergy posts across the county.

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