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Overview of sustainable growth across the North West

Rob Turner Rob Turner

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. Across these measures, sustainable growth in the North West is an extremely mixed picture.

It is only by looking in detail at the different baskets that the full complexity of the story emerges. In headline terms, only two areas – Cheshire East and Trafford – rank in the top 20% nationally. And only two other areas – Cheshire West and Chester and Stockport– rank above the national average.

At the other end of the spectrum, one-third of the local authority areas (16 out of 39) rank in the bottom 20% nationally. But what is driving this performance?

Behind the headlines

In terms of the region’s economic performance, only a quarter of the local authority areas rank above the national average for prosperity, with five in the top 20% nationally: Halton, Warrington, Cheshire East, Manchester and Trafford. A quarter are in the bottom 20%. A similar pattern emerges in terms of dynamism and opportunity, with 12 areas ranking above average and 10 ranking in the bottom 20%. Seven areas are in the top 20% nationally: Manchester, Cheshire East, Lancaster, Liverpool, West Lancashire, Chorley and Preston.

Socially, the region also faces a number of challenges. In terms of inclusion and equality – which includes indicators such as employment rates, child poverty and homelessness – Only seven areas rank above the national average. A further seven rank on the national average and 25 (64%) rank below the national average. A very similar pattern is also apparent for health, wellbeing and happiness. In this basket, 9 areas rank above the national average, seven on the national average and 23 (59%) below the national average. In these two baskets, the top-performing places are South Lakeland, Ribble Valley and Eden.

A rural/urban split

The more rural nature of these places underlines one of the key challenges facing the North West when considering a sustainable growth economy. Simply put, the cities perform strongly on the economic measures but very poorly on the social measures, and the converse is true for the more rural parts of the region. It is a factor that the Sustainable growth index, by looking at areas across a basket of measures, brings into sharp focus.

Looking at resilience and sustainability – where the indicators consider both our impact on the environment and the built environment ability to support future growth – Cheshire East, Stockport, Cheshire West, Manchester and Wigan all rank in the top 20 nationally. Six further areas rank in the top 40%. However, as with all the other baskets, the largest proportion of areas (14 out of 39) rank in the bottom 20%. 

For community, trust and belonging, the two top-performing places are Trafford and Liverpool (both in the top 20% nationally), with a further six areas ranking above the national average. Fourteen areas are also in bottom 20%.

It is important to note that while the breakdown in performance across these two baskets is almost identical, different areas make up the strong and poor performers. This further underlines the complexity and challenges facing those responsible for place-shaping in the region.

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