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Overview of sustainable growth across the West Midlands

Rob Turner Rob Turner

The West Midlands’ overall performance on the Sustainable growth index is skewed towards poorer performance, with half of all areas ranking in the bottom 40%. At the other end of the spectrum, seven areas rank in the top 40%. Of these only Warwick ranks in the top 20% nationally.

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. By looking in more detail at the region’s performance across these baskets, an interesting picture begins to emerge.

Cities dominate

On prosperity, one of the core economic measures, the region’s cities dominate, with Solihull, Warwick, Birmingham and Coventry all ranking in the top 20% nationally. However, despite these headline economic strengths, half (15 out of 30) of the local authority areas in the region rank in the bottom 40% nationally.

On the other economic basket of measures, dynamism and opportunity, Coventry is the only area ranking in the top 20% nationally. This is a particular challenge for the West Midlands since other regions generally see their cities perform strongly on this basket of measures. Again, nearly half of the areas in the region perform below the national average.

Polarised performance

Looking at the social measures, the regional picture is polarised. In terms of health, wellbeing and happiness, four areas rank in the top 20% nationally, with Warwick ranking second nationally. However, there are also nine areas in the bottom 20%, which is the highest number of worst-performing areas in any basket. A similar picture emerges in terms of inclusion and equality – which considers how well economic wealth is being shared – with eight areas in the top 40%, 13 in the bottom 40% and the remainder ranking around the national average.

In terms of resilience and sustainability, Shropshire ranks 13th nationally and is joined by Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon and Stafford in ranking in the top 20% nationally. A further seven areas rank in the top 40%. However, like the other baskets, a large proportion (12) rank in the bottom 40% nationally.

Community, trust and belonging – which measures indicators such as voter turnout, cultural and community assets, and crime statistics – appears to be the weakest basket in the region, with over half (57%) of areas ranking in the bottom 40% nationally and only five in the top 40%. In this context, Worcester and Warwick stand out as the best performers on this basket, ranking in the top 20% nationally. It is also worth noting that Warwick is one of the most consistently strong-performing places across all six baskets in the country.

Lessons to learn

Within this challenging regional picture, South Staffordshire stands out as having seen the greatest improvement in performance on the overall Sustainable growth index, moving up 61 places between 2013 and 2018 This is the twelfth-highest increase nationally.

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