Britain's tiger economy is Worthing

ENVY THE lucky traders and business people of Worthing.

The south-coast resort, known for its genteel atmosphere, Regency architecture and bracing sea air, is the most profitable town in Britain according to a new survey.

The figures show that businesses in the West Sussex town enjoy an average profit margin of around 21 per cent.

Britain's next most profitable town, Warrington, scores just under 20 per cent, while businesses in Dundee, placed third, achieve an average profit rate of almost 19 per cent place.

Some people might be surprised by the findings. To many Worthing is the epitome of a quiet, polite and even rather dull seaside town, a far cry from fashionable Brighton, its racier neighbour.

Few would expect it's residents - many of whom are retired - to be so industrious. The thought of tiger economies does not spring instantly to mind.

But findings of the survey, carried out by the global information group Experian, suggest profitable towns share a number of characteristics. These include excellent communication and transport links, a high number of skilled workers and a well-established manufacturing base.

Many profitable areas are seeing an expansion into high-tech business services.

Yesterday, Worthing Borough Council's economic development officer Tim Preston, said the town fulfilled all these criteria.

"Major companies coming to Worthing have recognised the professionalism and skill of our labour force, coupled with the fact that the number of school-leavers achieving more than five GCSEs with grades C or above is 10 per cent above the national average," he said.

"In addition the town has excellent transport links, including easy access to Gatwick Airport, the Channel ports and the Channel Tunnel."

He said companies investing in the town included the Daewoo Motor Company, SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, and Griffin Credit Services.

The survey, which analysed the profits of around 200,000 companies in England, Wales and Scotland, showed a huge degree of regional variation.

Perhaps as can be expected, the survey found the most profitable businesses are concentrated in the south and south-east of England. Only seven English locations in the north and 11 in the Midlands made it into the top 50.

Meanwhile Swansea, the most profitable location in Wales, only reached 32nd place in the overall list. Aberdeen, Britain's oil capital and the fifth most profitable location in Scotland, was placed 50 overall.

Not all was well in the south-east, however. Folkestone came in bottom position just behind Ramsgate and Sittingbourne, whose figures were all heavily in the red. This led Kent to be branded as Britain's least profitable county.

Worthing itself is not resting on its laurels. The Council is currently working on a "strategy for the 21st Century" to improve its shopping and retail facilities.

The locals are also keen to counter the view that their town is old and grey. Becky Gibbs, 20, a receptionist at the town's Burlington Hotel, said: "There are hundreds of young people here at weekends and they are all along the seafront in the evenings. There are loads of bars and clubs which are heaving. Young people love it here."

The Top 10

Worthing (20.90)

Warrington (19.57)

Dundee (18.75)

Andover (18.61)

Newbury (16.40)

Newcastle upon Tyne (15.94)

Exeter (15.19)

Perth (14.55)

Evesham (13.55)

Banbury (13.46)

The Bottom 10

Stockton on Tees (-2.33)

Boston (-2.40)

Solihull (-2.44)

Scunthorpe (-2.75)

Brentwood (-3.02)

Wells (-5.24)

Salisbury (-5.81)

Sittingbourne (-9.38)

Ramsgate (-18.89)

Folkestone (-25.13)