The picture for the East Midlands is one of considerable challenge (See map 1). Only seven areas in the East Midlands rank above the national average in the Vibrant Economy 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 11 areas ranking in the bottom 20%.
This overall vibrancy ranking is based on an area’s average ranking across six baskets of indicators, with each basket corresponding to a component required for sustainable and inclusive growth. Looking at the East Midlands by basket, we see a wide-ranging set of opportunities to change this.
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 and Derby stand out for performing in the top 20% nationally for prosperity as do Rushcliffe, Charnwood, 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 five areas in the top 20% nationally: Rutland (which ranks in the top 10); South Northamptonshire; Harborough; Rushcliffe; and Blaby. Rushcliffe, Harborough and Rutland also perform very strongly on the health, happiness and wellbeing basket, 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 two areas perform well, ranking in the top 20% nationally: Northampton and Charnwood. But the overriding finding is that 15 areas – a third of all the local authority areas in the region – rank in the bottom 20%. Community, trust and belonging presents an even starker challenge. Only five places rank in the top 40% and no areas are in the top 20% nationally. A quarter of areas are in the bottom 20%.
Within this overall challenging regional picture, two areas stand out as having seen the greatest improvement in performance over the past five years. Oadby and Wigston moved up 66 places, putting it in the top 10 for most improved performance, and Wellingborough moved up 63 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.