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. Across these measures, vibrancy in the North West is an extremely mixed picture (See map 1).
It is only by looking in detail at the different baskets that the full complexity of the story emerges. In headline terms, only one area – Cheshire East – ranks in the top 20% nationally. And only five other areas – Trafford, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington, South Lakeland and Stockport – rank above the national average.
At the other end of the spectrum, one-third of the local authority areas (14 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, Manchester, Trafford, Warrington and Cheshire East. A third are in the bottom 20%. A similar pattern emerges in terms of dynamism and opportunity, with 11 areas ranking above average and 12 ranking in the bottom 20%. Five areas are in the top 20% nationally: Cheshire East, West Lancashire, Manchester, Lancaster and Liverpool.
Socially, the region also faces a number of challenges. A vibrant economy would see everyone benefiting from economic growth. In terms of inclusion and equality – which includes indicators such as employment rates, child poverty and homelessness – only six places rank above the national average. A further five rank on the national average and 28 (71%) rank below the national average. A very similar pattern is also apparent for health, wellbeing and happiness. In this basket, nine areas rank above the national average, six on the national average and 24 (62%) below the national average. In these two baskets, the top-performing places are South Lakeland and Ribble Valley.
A rural/urban split
The more rural nature of these places underlines one of the key challenges facing the North West when considering a vibrant 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 Vibrant Economy 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 and Lancaster both rank in the top 20 nationally. Eight further areas rank in the top 40%. However, as with all the other baskets, the largest proportion of areas (12 out of 39) rank in the bottom 20%.
For community, trust and belonging, the two top-performing places are Trafford and South Lakeland (both in the top 20% nationally), with a further eight areas ranking above the national average. Twelve 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.