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Overview of sustainable growth across the East Midlands

Rob Turner Rob Turner

The picture for the East Midlands is one of considerable challenge. Only eight areas in the East Midlands rank above the national average in the Sustainable Growth Index.

Of these, Rushcliffe is the strongest performer, ranking in the top 20% nationally. At the other end of the ranking, over half of areas in the region (23 out of 40) rank below the national average, with 13 areas ranking in the bottom 20%. 

Our Sustainable Growth Index seeks to define and measure the components that create successful places. The measures included extend beyond the traditional economic measures of success to include components related to: prosperity; dynamism and opportunity; inclusion and equality; health, wellbeing and happiness; resilience and sustainability; and community, trust and belonging. Looking at the East Midlands by basket, we see a wide-ranging set of opportunities to change this.

Wide-ranging challenges

The greatest opportunity for the region is in relation to its economic performance, both in terms of prosperity – creating wealth and jobs – and dynamism and opportunity, having entrepreneurial skill sets to drive future growth. Across both baskets, very few areas rank above average (ranking in the top 40% nationally) and over half rank below the national average. However, North West Leicestershire, Derby and Blaby stand out for performing in the top 20% nationally for prosperity as do Rushcliffe, Charnwood, Leicester, Nottingham and Hinckley and Bosworth for dynamism and opportunity.

In terms of how well the existing wealth of an area is spread through the local population, the region performs better on inclusion and equality, with six areas in the top 20% nationally: Harborough; Rutland; South Northamptonshire; Rushcliffe; Blaby and East Northamptonshire. Blaby, Rushcliffe and Harborough also perform very strongly on the health, happiness and well-being basket, with a further four areas all ranking in the top 20% nationally. Significant challenges, however, remain across both of these baskets, with at least a third of areas ranking below the national average.

Our measures around resilience and sustainability consider the environment: are we generating wealth at the expense of our planet? And is the built environment able to support growth? Here only Northampton performs well, ranking in the top 20% nationally. But the overriding finding is that 17 areas – 44% of the local authority areas in the region – rank in the bottom 20%. Community, trust and belonging presents an even starker challenge. Only six places rank in the top 40% with only Derby ranking in the top 20% nationally. A quarter of areas are in the bottom 20%.

Big improvements

Within this overall challenging regional picture, two areas stand out as having seen the greatest improvement in performance over the past six years. Derbyshire Dales moved up 79 places, putting it in the top 10 for most improved performance, and South Derbyshire moved up 64 places. While both of these areas still rank below the national average, it is a promising sign for the region. It also raises important questions around the policy levers and actions that have driven this change and what other places might be able to learn from and adopt.

Looking spatially across the region, the poorest-performing areas tend to be located in the north and far east of the region. Stronger performance is generally found to the west of the centre and south around the cities of Nottingham and Leicester.

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