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UK regional rebalancing may be boosted by COVID-19 response

09 06 20 regional revolution III hero

Private investment essential to ensure the Government’s COVID-19 fiscal boost is ‘supercharged’, according to UK chief economist at Colliers International.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have boosted the Government’s regional rebalancing strategy.

In his recently-published research paper ‘Regional Revolution III: Rise of Cross Border Investment’, Dr Walter Boettcher says: “Regional rebalancing that lies at the heart of Government economic planning may have just received an unexpected, but decisive boost.”

He explains that while many investors viewed the Coronavirus crisis as a temporary interruption of pre-pandemic trends, others perceived “the beginning of a large-scale change in the patterns of commercial activity and use of real estate”. Some central London occupiers could seek to grow their existing regional footprints or establish new regional footprints altogether, in order to reduce the density of their existing office use.

Download ‘Regional Revolution III: Rise of Cross Border Investment'

Dr Boettcher recently held a series of Regional Economic Briefing webinars focussing upon his research paper, which explores cross border investment into the UK regions and possible future trends. These were for the South West & Bristol; the Midlands and Birmingham and the Northern Powerhouse, and attracted over 350 online viewers.

In ‘Regional Revolution III: Rise of Cross Border Investment’, he sets out the position that while Government investment in the regions would be an essential part of the Covid recovery, this could be ‘supercharged’ if supplemented with private investment, especially cross border investment. Furthermore, the positive signs are already evident.

Dr Boettcher highlights the fact that the COVID-19 emergency measures included a substantial fiscal stimulus designed to work in tandem with monetary stimulus, and that this was in addition to the £600 billion of investment over five years in the regions announced by the Government shortly before the pandemic reached the UK.

“In net terms, public investment is set to be the highest since 1955 in real terms,” he notes, while cautioning that until the delayed National Infrastructure Strategy was published, details of capital allocations would remain uncertain.

And he adds: “Let us hope that the resolve to push these plans ahead is not dissipated by any further delays.  In many ways, the years of austerity were years of lost opportunity.  Now is the time to push forward.  Regional Revolution!”

Dr Boettcher points out that prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, the UK regions were attracting increasing attention from commercial property investors, and in particular cross border investors.

“In the early to mid-2000s, regional investment was the province of large UK pension and insurance funds, as well as the odd German fund, but by the late 2010s, the regional investor base expanded to include a wider range of investors, especially cross-border investors,” he says.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that these regional gains could be reversed as transactions decline and risk perception rises, in fact, the regions are well positioned for a post-pandemic recovery.”

Dr Boettcher adds: “Clearly, UK government resources are limited and the scale of the necessary investment required to ‘rebalance the UK economy’ and to ‘improve productivity across the regions’ goes well beyond central government’s financial capacity to deliver.

“The heavy lifting in the regions, as contemplated by central government, can only be achieved in tandem with cross-border investors and UK institutions who have the required depth of capital. The task of central government is one of direction, seed funding and focusing on providing an adequate infrastructure framework to support the necessary development.

“Perhaps the most crucial and indispensable task is left to local governments and, especially local stakeholders, to envision and bring to market projects of sufficient scale to attract investors and to enable their engagement. It is in this way that the UK regions will benefit from the much vaunted regional rebalancing, that is at the least, one generation overdue.

“Furthermore, general investment in the UK, unlike Government investment, is not a zero-sum game. Given the weight of global and domestic institutional capital, there are sufficient resources to float all the boats across London and the UK regions without any region being left behind.”


To see the videos of the Regional Economic Briefing webinars, click below:

South West and Bristol

Midlands and Birmingham

Northern Powerhouse


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Walter Boettcher

Head of Research and Economics

Research and Forecasting

London - West End

As Head of Research and Economics at global property advisors Colliers based in London, I lead a team of researchers identifying timely research topics and directing research and forecasting outputs. I have 25+ years of UK and European property industry experience and extensive expertise across a wide range of sectors and related industries. I participate regularly in industry panel discussions, but am focused more on direct client engagement with institutions, property companies, banks, and private investors. A regular media commentator, I have a wide range of national publication and broadcast experience. I joined Colliers International in August 2007 after several years at a private property company where I was responsible for managing a mixed portfolio of London residential, retail and office assets. Previously, I worked in a few London property advisory firms, a geodemographic company as well as a few youthful sojourns in the US offshore oil industry, local government and entertainment business. I am an economics graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received a  PhD from the Faculty of Science at University College London.  I am a member of the London Property Economics Forum and  Society of Property Researchers.

Perhaps best known for my alternative take on property economics and investment, I am a keen proponent of UK regional development and infrastructure investment.

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