A vibrant economy is one where everyone benefits from economic growth, so the gap between the richest and poorest narrows and disparities between and within regions decrease.
To measure inclusion and equality for the Vibrant Economy Index, we explore a range of factors, including levels of deprivation and inequality, child poverty, housing affordability, rates of employment and long-term unemployment, benefit claimant rates and homelessness.
The highs and lows
The highest-ranked places on this basket of measures are in the south of England with a clear pattern of strong performance around London. Hart, Waverley, South Bucks, Elmbridge and Wokingham make up the top five nationally, while Rutland in the East Midlands and East Hertfordshire in the East of England are the two strongest performers outside the South East, ranking 10 and 11 respectively. London itself, with the exception of a few boroughs, generally performs on or below the national average.
At the other end of the spectrum, a number of regions face significant challenges in relation to inclusion and equality. For example, all local authority areas in the North East rank below the national average and three-quarters rank in the bottom 20% nationally.
Pockets of inequality
For other places, while regional performance may be strong, there are pockets where low levels of inclusion and equality are particularly pronounced. This is best illustrated by the fact that all nine English regions have at least three local authority areas ranking in the bottom 20% nationally. These places are not seeing the benefits of economic growth and there is a very real question for policymakers and place-shapers around how best to address these challenges. How can growth be more inclusive?
We can also see that both highly urban and highly rural places face significant challenges in relation to inclusion and equality. While the measures are the same and the scores are similar, the underlying drivers are significantly different. For instance, in rural areas the issue of long-term unemployment is driven by a lack of job opportunities while in urban areas job opportunities will abound, but the competition is fierce and once an individual falls out of the labour market it can be very difficult to get back in.