The West Midlands’ overall performance on the Vibrant Economy Index is skewed towards poorer performance, with over half of all areas ranking in the bottom 40% (See map 1). At the other end of the spectrum, eight areas rank in the top 40%. Of these, Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon both rank in the top 20% nationally.
The Vibrant Economy Index is based on an area’s average ranking across six baskets of indicators, with each basket corresponding to one of the six components of sustainable and inclusive growth. By looking in more detail at the region’s performance across these baskets, an interesting picture begins to emerge.
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, half of the areas in the region perform below the national average.
Looking at the social measures, the regional picture is polarised. In terms of health, wellbeing and happiness, seven areas rank in the top 20% nationally, with Stratford-on-Avon ranking 12 nationally. However, there are also 10 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 a third of places in the top 40%, a third in the bottom 40% and the remainder ranking around the national average.
To be vibrant, the economy has a neutral impact on the environment and our built environments support future growth. In terms of resilience and sustainability, Shropshire ranks ninth nationally and is joined by Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon and Stafford in ranking in the top 20% nationally. A further five areas rank in the top 40%. However, like the other baskets, a large proportion (14) 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 two-thirds of areas ranking in the bottom 40% nationally and only six 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, North Warwickshire stands out as having seen the greatest improvement in performance on the overall Vibrant Economy Index, moving up 90 places between 2013 and 2017. This is the second-highest increase nationally. Given that North Warwickshire ranked in the bottom 20% nationally in 2013, there are clearly valuable lessons for other places in the region.