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Overview of sustainable growth in the North East

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. The index reveals a number of challenges for the North East.

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. The index reveals a number of challenges for the North East.

In terms of overall sustainable growth, just one of the region’s 12 areas ranks around the national average. Ten of the remaining 11 are in the bottom 40% nationally, with six of these in the bottom 20%. Examining the individual baskets of indicators shows a range of factors driving this relatively weak performance.

Challenges on all fronts

The most significant challenges facing the region are on inclusion and equality. This basket of measures includes indicators such as child poverty, homelessness and unemployment over five years. All areas rank below the national average, with six out of 12 areas ranking in the bottom 20% nationally. There is a similar story in terms of health, wellbeing and happiness, with the majority of areas ranking below the national average. Darlington and County Durham are the only places that rank around the national average. The remaining 10 areas are in the bottom 40%, with five of these in the bottom 20%. 

There are also challenges in relation to community, trust and belonging, which considers aspects such as voter turnout, community and cultural assets, crime and elderly living alone. All but one of the areas in the region rank in the bottom 20% nationally. Only one area, Newcastle upon Tyne, ranks above the national average. 

On economic measures, the picture is more positive, although still challenging in comparison with other regions. In terms of prosperity, which measures if an economy is producing wealth and creating jobs, three areas – Sunderland, Newcastle and North Tyneside – rank in the top 40%. Four rank around the national average. There is a similar pattern in terms of dynamism and opportunity: having the skill sets and entrepreneurialism to drive future growth. Four areas rank in the top 40% with two in the top 20%. Newcastle has the highest score overall, followed by County Durham, Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees. A further four areas rank around the national average. 

Driving prosperity

For the North East, the challenge is that, unlike other regions, the strengths of its economic centres are limited and therefore their ability to drive wealth and prosperity across the region is constrained. Similarly, a number of places perform above the national average in the current ranking for prosperity, but none are in the top 20% nationally and therefore big enough to begin to exert influence across the region. While it is clear from other regions that a strong economic centre does not automatically resolve social challenges, the lack of one does exacerbate it.

The two baskets where the region does rank in the top 20% nationally are resilience and sustainability, where Newcastle, Northumberland and County Durham all perform strongly. And Dynamism and Opportunity, where County Durham and Newcastle are both in the top 20% nationally.

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