New index finds Warwick is the most ‘vibrant’ place in the West Midlands

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David Hillan, Practice Leader, Grant Thornton Birmingham

Leading business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP today (Tuesday 17 January) publishes the results of a new index which measures how towns and cities in the West Midlands compare on a range of factors from prosperity to health, wellbeing & happiness, and inclusion & equality. The Vibrant Economy Index aims to provide a measure of not only economic but also social performance, and has found that Warwick is the most vibrant place in the West Midlands.

The Vibrant Economy Index for the region is published to coincide with Grant Thornton’s West Midlands Inquiry at Villa Park, where 200 of the region’s influencers and leaders from private, public and third sectors will discuss how to work together for a Greater West Midlands.

The Vibrant Economy Index is based on 52 indicators of performance, tracking factors that enable businesses, communities and individuals to thrive. These include economic measures such as Gross Value Added, educational attainment and average incomes, and combines them with data around fuel poverty, obesity levels, air quality and crime rates to give a picture of how a place is performing – not just economically, but also socially. Places were measured by key factors in each performance indicator and awarded an overall ‘vibrancy’ score, with 100 being the average.

The index, which ranks 324 local authority areas according to an overall ‘vibrancy’ score, found that Warwick topped the West Midlands region, coming 28th in the list of 324.

Influencing Warwick’s success are several socio-economic factors where it has higher than national average scores, including:

· The proportion of employment in knowledge-driven sectors is 27.8 per cent compared to the national average of 22.8 per cent
· The employment rate is 81.1 per cent compared to 73.9 per cent
· The percentage of pupils achieving GCSE grades A* to C (or equivalent) is 68.3 per cent compared to 57.3 per cent

It also has lower than average national scores on indicators including:

· The proportion of the working age population who are claiming benefits is 6.7 per cent compared to the national average of 11.4 per cent
· Diabetes prevalence is 5.4 per cent compared to 6.4 per cent
· Violent crime rate is 7 per 1000 of population compared to 13.5

Looking at other local authority areas across the West Midlands, Solihull, Warwick, Birmingham, East Staffordshire and Coventry led the region’s prosperity rankings, with Coventry also scoring highest in the region for dynamism and opportunity, followed by Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham.

While the scores for economic prosperity and dynamism and opportunity demonstrate that the region is in rude financial health, these results do not necessarily lead to good health, wellbeing and happiness. Several areas across the region were below average in this indicator, which looks at issues such as sports participation, levels of obesity, prevalence of diabetes, average life expectancy and anxiety. Where 100 is the average, Birmingham scored 94.16; Stoke-on-Trent 92.42; Walsall 92.05; Sandwell 91.2; and Wolverhampton 89.2.

Bromsgrove, Lichfield and Stratford-upon-Avon rank highly in the West Midlands for social inclusion and equality, with Lichfield and Stratford-upon-Avon also scoring well for health, wellbeing and happiness. Malvern Hills achieves the highest score on this measure locally and is 23rd in England overall. Warwick and Worcester both have a strong sense of community, with Worcester coming 27th in England on this measure.

Commenting on the Vibrant Economy Index findings David Hillan, practice leader at Grant Thornton in Birmingham, said:

“It’s clear from these results that the West Midlands is doing well, particularly in creating an environment that creates and supports economic prosperity, and developing an entrepreneurial culture that will help drive future growth.

“Every day I get to work with people who are growing businesses, seeking to improve their communities and taking charge of their futures. As the historical heart of manufacturing in the UK, the West Midlands has established itself as a home for innovation and dynamic businesses.

“But for the region to achieve its full potential as a national economic and societal powerhouse we need to ensure that this prosperity can also impact positively on other vital factors such as health, happiness, social inclusion and the environmental. It’s great to see Warwick scoring highly across a wide range of measures, but there are serious issues in other areas that will require close collaboration to address.

“This is why we’ve convened our West Midlands Inquiry today: to bring together the region’s influencers and leaders from the private, public and third sectors to define our opportunities, discuss what we do well, what we could do better and how we can work more closely together to create a blueprint for change and an even greater West Midlands. A truly vibrant economy is one which benefits every sector of society in every way.

“Given the importance of the West Midlands from a national perspective, we will all play a role in building a strong foundation for sustainable growth where people and businesses can thrive.”