West Midlands named UK's second least prosperous region held back by crime and poor health

The West Midlands ranks second bottom of a new national prosperity index and high crime and poor levels of health are said to be holding it back.

A new prosperity index used to track the Government’s levelling-up agenda puts the West Midlands near the bottom
A new prosperity index used to track the Government’s levelling-up agenda puts the West Midlands near the bottom

The Legatum Institute's UK Prosperity Index uses 256 indicators based on the latest available data to provide a comprehensive assessment of institutional, economic, and social wellbeing across the country’s 379 local authorities.

The region only comes in at 14th out of 15 UK regions in the index which will be used to track the Government’s levelling-up agenda and hold decision makers to account for improving the prosperity of all regions of the UK.

The West Midlands has a strong and vibrant economy but higher crime rates, weaker social capital, higher levels of poverty, and poorer health outcomes than other areas of the country.

Key strengths are relatively strong investment environment with businesses in the region have the best perception of the banking sector in the country and above average rates of investment in new processes and products; good enterprise conditions with flexible labour markets and the third lowest level of vacancies classified as ‘hard-to-fill’ in the country and strong infrastructure.

The index reveals a number of opportunities for the West Midlands metropolitan region to ‘level-up’, including increasing the safety and security of local communities and improving living conditions and health.

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce has recently launched a major campaign aimed at helping its part of the region step up its competitiveness.

Chamber chief executive Corin Crane said: "It has been widely known that the region tracks behind many other across a number of key metrics. To ensure that the region can be truly competitive, longstanding issues which limit productivity, prosperity and the prospects of our citizens need to be addressed alongside those which have been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

"These include tackling skills gaps as well as investment in infrastructure which keeps the Black Country moving and open for business. The chamber continues to maintain pressure on decision makers and fly the flag for our member businesses and to ensure that the region is not forgotten about.

“As we progress through the 21st Century, the local economy and its businesses are facing significant pressures from a number of factors. Last year saw significant disruption to how we live and do business with Covid-19 continuing to overshadow many of our plans and operations for some time to come. For businesses throughout the region, the effects of the Covid-19 emergency and its economic impact are also taking place during a period when the post-Brexit trading landscape is shaping around us.

“Across two centuries, the chamber has been helping firms of all sizes and sectors to prioritise and overcome obstacles which limit growth and productivity. Our economy has stood at a crossroads and our recently launched major campaign, Black Country 2.0, is framing all of our activity and support services over the coming months, and into 2022, as we help businesses to navigate in these challenging times.”

Professor Matthew Goodwin, director of the Legatum Institute’s Centre for UK Prosperity, said: “The UK Prosperity Index is the most ambitious assessment of prosperity across the country to date. With detailed data on all boroughs and council areas, it is a transformational tool that can help policy makers and influencers target their interventions more effectively on the journey towards greater prosperity. The Index will be updated annually, allowing citizens, businesses, local authorities, regions, and national government to track progress over time and hold decision-makers to account.

“The holistic and rigorous approach we have taken has allowed us to identify issues that have previously been missed in the discussion about how to level-up the country.

"It highlights that while the urban areas of the West Midlands perform well economically, we also need to invest in areas such as improving the safety of local communities, strengthening family relationships, reducing poverty, and improving health if we are to see all citizens in the region reach their full potential. We hope our Index will help leaders across the West Midlands set their agendas and implement strategies that will unlock real prosperity.”

Among local authorities in the West Midlands Solihull ranks top for prosperity, Walsall third, Dudley fourth, Sandwell fifth and Wolverhampton seventh.

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