Economic Performance of the West Midlands

The ONS has just released sub national figures for nominal GVA and I thought it might be worthwhile looking at them.

It is interesting to compare these with a picture painted at a recent talk given by Andy Street, (Chair of Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP). He was very upbeat about how there had been a turnaround in economic performance although pointing to a mega issue that needed to be solved; namely that of skills.

Three slides that illustrate the renaissance  are;

GBSLEP unemployment claimantGBSLEP private sector jobs growthGBSLEP GVA gap

These show that for the LEP area claimant unemployment has fallen significantly in recent years and private sector jobs have grown significantly. The third graph shows the slight catching up of the GBSLEP area with the rest of the UK in terms of income/head.  The presentation was quite persuasive whilst recognising that there was still much to do.

His speech can be heard here and his slides downloaded from here. His presentation largely relates to the GBSLEP area and so is not often comparable to the West Midlands figures used below (which relate to the prospective Combined Authority area).

So what is the picture in the Combined Authority area. Well not quite so rosy. The graphs below use as a comparator Greater Manchester.

GVA per Head relative non growth

The graph above shows how, in terms of GVA per head Greater Manchester is still out performing the West Midlands area – not by a huge sum but the advantaged it gained in 2003 has not yet been clawed back.

What is more worrying is if you look at the West Midlands and Greater Manchester’s performance in GVA per head relative to the rest of the UK. Below these are plotted together with trend lines.


GVA per Head relatative

These are worrying both for Manchester and Birmingham. They both show a broadly downward trend overtime with little deviation. The most worrying is the performance of the West Midlands with a much bigger downward trend. Consistently over time the West Midlands is declining relative to the rest of the UK.

Now there are lots of provisos with these graphs, particularly the trends. The period over which the data has been collected is relatively short and so applying trends is potentially misleading and the 2014 data is currently only estimated. However it must be said that given the data there is no evidence in the wider conurbation of any real break in the trend in relative decline of GVA/head.

The task is significant but how come the story differs from that of GBSLEP area. Well obviously the West Midlands figures cover the wider metropolitan area and therefore the relatively poorer performance might reflect performance in the Black Country or Coventry. It also must be noted that the GBSLEP areas covers much more than Greater Birmingham and Solihull and these areas which are not in the West Midlands conurbation may have been doing better. This suggests further analysis is needed. Not in this post however.

I just want to look at what is going on within the Combined Authority area. Last year there were surprising figures for growth in Walsall (positive) and Solihull(negative). This was covered in my post here on UrbanPivot.Com.

What is the more up to data picture.  Last year I used a snapshot of growth – this time I below look at how the different parts of the WMCA have performed over time.

Looking at GVA/head it is clear where the more productive parts of the West Midlands area are.

GVA per head with West Midlands

Solihull quite clearly is in the lead with both Coventry and Birmingham (which are neck and neck) above average. The area clearly lagging behind the West Midlands average is the Black Country. Whilst there has been little change in the rankings over the years one change is that Walsall moved of the bottom spot in 2010 leaving Dudley with the wooden spoon.

It will be interesting to see how this changes overtime and whether the Super Strategic Economic Plan in preparation by the three LEPs seeks to either go with growth (ie put more resources into Solihull, Coventry and Birmingham) in the more productive areas or alternatively seek to rebalance growth towards the Black Country.

Hopefully soon with the establishment of the West Midlands Combined Authority and its economic intelligence arm, together with the newly established CityREDI research institute at the University of Birmingham we will get a clearer picture of both what is happening in the WMCA area as well as the wider 3 LEP as we need that clearer picture to make key decisions on investments and strategic focus.














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