1. Main points

  • Greater Manchester and the West Midlands had the largest economies of the 6 combined authorities, each contributing 3.6% to UK gross value added (GVA) in 2015.
  • Both Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and West of England had employment rates above the national average at 77.6% and 76.8% respectively (compared with 73.9% in Great Britain); the remaining 4 combined authorities had employment rates below average with the West Midlands lowest at 65.1%.
  • The West of England had the largest population growth from 2011 to 2015 at 4.8%; the lowest growth was in Tees Valley (0.7%).
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2. Introduction

This article examines the 6 combined authority areas of Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, West of England, Tees Valley and Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. These combined authorities are of particular interest at the present time as they are each due to elect a mayor in May 2017. This first section of this article provides an overview and comparison of key economic and socio-economic data for each of the combined authorities with national data shown for comparison purposes. The following sections of the article provide key economic data for each of the constituent local authorities within each combined authority.

The geographical boundaries that represent the combined authorities in this article are the existing combined authority boundaries for Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Tees Valley as well as the boundaries for the proposed combined authorities for the West Midlands, West of England and Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. With the exception of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, these combined authority areas are also commonly known as city regions due to their geographical location and coverage of predominantly core urban areas.

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3. Combined authority comparisons

Greater Manchester and the West Midlands had the largest economies of the combined authorities in 2015, each contributing 3.6% to UK gross value added (GVA) as shown in figure 1. Tees Valley had the smallest economy and contributed 0.8% of UK GVA in 2015. In combination, therefore, the 6 areas with mayoral elections in May 2017 contributed 12.9% of UK GVA in 2015. This is a similar share to that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined (13.2%), but less than London (22.9%).

Looking at GVA by industry, table 1 shows there is some variability in the industrial structure between the combined authority areas. Greater Manchester (10.2%) and the West of England (10.1%) had the smallest share of their GVA produced by manufacturing in 2015, while the West Midlands had the highest share (14.8%).

Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and West of England had the highest share of output produced by Business service activities, Financial and insurance activities and Information and communication (combined shares of 27.1% and 29.9% respectively), while Tees Valley (17.8%) and Liverpool (19.6%) had the lowest shares.

Industrial structure is one of the factors that can have an influence on productivity for an area1. Figure 2 shows labour productivity measured by nominal GVA per hour worked for each combined authority.

The West of England and Peterborough and Cambridgeshire had productivity above the UK average. For the remaining combined authority areas productivity was 9% to 13% below the UK level in 2015.

Another factor that can influence labour productivity is skills levels. West of England had the highest share of residents with a degree-level qualification at 45% and the lowest share of residents with no qualifications at just over 5%. By contrast the West Midlands had over 3 times the share of population with no qualifications (16.3%) and a much lower share of residents with a degree-level qualification (28.3%).

Figure 4 shows the employment rates in the combined authority areas from October 2015 to September 2016. Both Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and West of England had employment rates above the national average at 77.6% and 76.8% respectively (compared with 73.9% in Great Britain). The remaining 4 combined authorities had employment rates below average with the West Midlands lowest at 65.1%.

The low employment rate in the West Midlands was particularly impacted by a low female employment rate which was more than 10 percentage points below that of Great Britain at 58.3% compared to 69%. This was also 6.2 percentage points below the female employment rate in the city region with the next lowest rate, Tees Valley.

At 71.9%, the male employment rate in the West Midlands was the second-lowest of the combined authorities, shown in figure 6, and 6.9 percentage points below the Great Britain average. The male employment rate was lowest in Liverpool Combined Authority at 70.5 %.

One contributing factor towards the low employment rate in the West Midlands is a low ethnic minority employment rate (note as sample sizes are smaller estimates for ethnic minority employment rates are subject to wider confidence intervals). Nearly a third of residents in the West Midlands Combined Authority were from an ethnic minority group according to the 2011 Census and the 16 to 64 employment rate for those from an ethnic minority from October 2015 to September 2016 was 55.3%. This was over 8 percentage points below the average employment rate for ethnic minorities in Great Britain (63.7%) but Liverpool and the Tees Valley also had low ethnic minority employment rates however they also have much lower shares of residents from an ethnic minority group (both just over 5% in 2011), and therefore this had much less of an impact on employment in these combined authorities. In Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and the West of England, ethnic minority employment rates were above average in the UK.

Unemployment rates for each of the combined authorities are shown in figure 8. Here the West Midlands and Tees Valley had the highest unemployment rates, both over 7%. Although Peterborough and Cambridgeshire had the highest employment rate, it is the West of England which had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.6%, below the unemployment rate overall in Great Britain of 4.9%.

Figure 9 shows the median weekly earnings for each of the combined authorities by workplace and by place of residence. Workplace earnings refer to the earnings of people who are employed in an area and indicate the average pay for an area as a labour market. Residence based earnings refer to the earnings of people who live in an area. Earnings of full time employees who worked in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire were highest compared to the earnings of workers in the other combined authorities at £555 a week. Workplace earnings were all between £35 to £45 below the UK average in Liverpool, Greater Manchester and Tees Valley.

Residents of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire also had the highest median weekly earnings at £552. Generally differences between workplace and residence based earnings in the combined authorities were very small at £5 or less, although in the West Midlands the difference was more noticeable. Median workplace earnings in the West Midlands were the highest after Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and the West of England at £528, however the median earnings of residents were £31 lower at £497 per week. This partly reflects that many well paid workers in the West Midlands Combined Authority commute into the area from surrounding areas.

Gross disposable household income (GDHI) per head, given in figure 10, shows a similar pattern. Residents in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire had the highest GDHI per head in 2014 at just under £18,900 whilst residents in the West Midlands had the lowest (£14,100). GDHI is the amount of money that all of the individuals in the household sector have available for spending or saving after income distribution measures (for example, taxes, social contributions and benefits) have taken effect.

Table 2 gives population estimates for each of the combined authority areas alongside population growth from mid-2011 to mid-2015.The West of England has seen the largest growth in population having increased by nearly 5% from 2011 and it also had the largest positive net internal migration in 2015. The West of England also has the highest share of its population aged 16 to 64.

The West Midlands had the largest population of the combined authority areas with 2.8 million residents at the latest 2015 mid-year estimates, having grown by 3.4% since 2011. In Liverpool and Tees Valley, population growth over the period was positive but well below the UK average. These two combined authorities are also the only areas shown in table 2 with an above average share of population aged 65 and over.

Amongst many other factors, earnings, income and the affordability of an area all contribute towards the overall level of deprivation in an area as measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). Levels of deprivation experienced by people living in combined authorities can be compared using the IMD which has been calculated for every lower layer super output area (LSOA) in England (LSOAs are areas averaging a population of around 1,500 or 650 households) . Every LSOA has then been ranked according to its level of deprivation relative to that of other areas. For combined authorities, the share of LSOAs falling in each decile of the IMD, from the most deprived 10% to the least deprived 10%, can be measured. Figure 11 shows the share of LSOAs in deciles 1 and 2 and deciles 9 and 10, the most deprived and least deprived 20% of LSOAs nationally for each combined authority.

If an area had average distribution of deprivation they would have 20% of LSOAs in the most deprived 20% of LSOAs nationally and 20% of LSOAs in the least deprived 20% of LSOAs nationally. Liverpool City Region Combined Authority had over double this share with 45% of its neighbourhoods in the most deprived 20% nationally. The West Midlands also had over double the share of neighbourhoods in the most deprived 20% nationally, just below Liverpool at 44%. The West of England and Peterborough and Cambridgeshire by contrast have less than 20% of neighbourhoods in the most deprived 20% nationally at 15.3% and 11.5% respectively.

Peterborough and Cambridgeshire also has the highest share of neighbourhoods in the least deprived 20% nationally at 29.2%. Similarly it is Liverpool City Region which has the lowest share of neighbourhoods in the least deprived 20% nationally at just under 9%.

These findings for deprivation are also reflected in the life expectancies for the combined authorities. Figure 12 gives the life expectancy at birth for males and females for each of the combined authority areas. Here Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and the West of England had the highest life expectancies at birth for both males and females and both were above the national averages of 79.2 years for males and 82.9 years for females. The life expectancy at birth in all other combined authorities was below the UK average with Tees Valley and Liverpool the lowest.

Notes for: Combined Authority comparisons

1.While industrial structure can influence average productivity in an area, recent ONS analysis illustrated that it is typically differences in productivity in firms within the same industries that account for a larger proportion of differences for most areas

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4. Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Across the range of indicators explored, Greater Manchester Combined Authority tended to perform well relative to the other combined authority areas in the North and Midlands, although fell behind the West of England and Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. As one of the largest combined authorities by population, examining these indicators for the 10 constituent local authorities within Greater Manchester (given in table 4) reveals some large disparities.

Firstly looking at the employment rates shown in figure 13, the employment rate in Trafford at 80.1% was nearly 20 percentage points higher than the employment rate in Rochdale (61.7%) for the period from October 2015 to September 2016. Alongside Trafford, Stockport and Wigan also had employment rates above the national average. The local authority of Manchester had the second-lowest employment rate overall, but the lowest male employment rate at 67%. Rochdale had the lowest employment rate overall though due to its particularly low female employment rate of 56.3% compared with 60.9% in Manchester.

Considerable differences in the level of qualification and educational attainment of residents in the different local authorities within Greater Manchester can also be seen. Looking at the shares of residents with a degree-level qualification shown in table 3, in 2015 Trafford’s share (48.5%) was almost double that of Tameside (25.1%). Manchester was the only other local authority with the share of residents with a degree-level qualification above the national average at 39.5% although this was still nine percentage points lower than the share in Trafford. Differences in the share of residents with no qualifications were less pronounced although Trafford again, along with Stockport, stood out as having the lowest share of residents with no qualifications, both 5%, and Rochdale the highest at 13.9%.

This pattern continues to be seen in the attainment of school students as Trafford was highest for average attainment 8 scores (56.6) and pupil entry into higher education (50%), also shown in table 3. Oldham reported the lowest average attainment 8 score per pupil in 2015/16 at 45.8, 2.5 points below the average across England of 48.2. Generally the percentages of pupils entering into higher education in the local authorities were average (37%) or above. The exceptions to this were Tameside (31%), Salford (33%) and Manchester (35%).

With the exception of Manchester, median weekly earnings for those working in the remaining local authorities in the combined authority were below average. The lowest median workplace pay was £438 per week in Rochdale, £108 below the median weekly pay in Manchester (£546) which has a large share of jobs in the Professional, Scientific and Technical activities sector.

Comparing the earnings of those employed in the local authority against the earnings of those who live there gives a different picture. There was a greater range in resident based pay between the local authorities with median weekly pay in Trafford (£601) £141 higher than median weekly pay in Tameside (£460).

Trafford has so far been shown as typically the highest-performing local authority within Greater Manchester. It is therefore unsurprising Trafford has experienced the highest growth in median house prices over the last 5 years, having increased by 42.4% from an average property price of £184,000 in Dec 2011 to £261,000 in Dec 2016 (table 4).

As shown in figure 15, Trafford has also seen over a 6 percentage point increase in the share of flats sold to 19.0% over the same 5-year period.

However, it was Manchester and Salford which had the largest shares of property sales which were flats in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2016 at 37.1% and 33.5% respectively. For Manchester this was around a 4 percentage point increase on the share in Quarter 3 2011 whilst for Salford the share of sales which were flats increased by nearly 10 percentage points in the last 5 years. By contrast the share of flat sales decreased in many of the majority of local authorities in Greater Manchester.

Looking at data from the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) for within Greater Manchester provides a picture of the living standards in different areas within the combined authority. By local authority, Manchester was ranked at number 1 as the most deprived in England with 59% of its neighbourhoods within the top 20% of the most deprived neighbourhoods nationally. Trafford and Stockport were ranked at 222 and 178 respectively out of a total of 326 local authorities in England and had substantially lower shares of its neighbourhoods within the 20% most deprived with values of 9% and 13% respectively.

The map in figure 17 visualises the patterns in relative deprivation across the combined authority. Clusters of the most deprived neighbourhoods can be seen in central Manchester, parts of Wigan, Bolton, Tameside and Rochdale. Along the outskirts of Greater Manchester were where the relatively less deprived neighbourhoods were located, particularly in parts of Trafford and Stockport.

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5. Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority consists of the 6 local authorities of Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St. Helens and Wirral. In contrast to some of the other combined authority areas, there is not one local authority which consistently performs the highest across the indicators.

For the year up to September 2016, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority was shown in figure 5 to have the second-lowest employment rate of the combined authority areas at 67.7%. This was due to Liverpool Combined Authority having the lowest male employment rate (figure 6) of 70.5%. Within the combined authority, Liverpool Local Authority had the lowest employment rate at 63.2% whilst Halton had the highest employment rate at 73.7%, which is the same as the UK average. The employment rates for all other local authorities were below the UK average.

Knowsley, which had the second-lowest employment rate, had the highest percentage of 16- to 64-year-olds without any qualifications (16%). This was nearly double the average for England (8.4%) and Wirral which had the lowest share in the combined authority (8.9%). Again in Knowsley 22.5% of 16- to 64-year-olds had a degree-level qualification, Halton had a similarly low share at 22.3%. In fact all local authorities had above average shares of residents with no qualifications and below average shares of residents with a degree-level qualification relative to England.

The contrast between Knowlsey and the rest of the constituent local authorities is particularly stark in educational attainment. In fact Knowlsey reports as the lowest-performing local authority in England for the 3 education measures displayed in table 10. The percentage of students at the end of Key Stage 4 who achieved 5 A* - C including English and Maths at GSCE level showed 35.7% of students who go to school in Knowsley achieved the standards measured for GCSE achievement, 17 percentage points lower than the national level. The highest performing local authority in Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, which again was Wirral, had 61.5%. Other local authorities in the combined authority were around the national average for school results.

These patterns seen in level of qualification and educational attainment are reflected in earnings for the local authorities. When looking at the earnings of residents, Wirral had the highest median weekly earnings (£526) and Knowsley the lowest (£475). However for median weekly earnings based on those employed in the local authority, the relative earnings change noticeably. Knowsley, the local authority with the lowest median weekly earnings of residents, was second to Halton (£525). On both a resident and workplace basis, all the local authorities in Liverpool Combined Authority were below the UK level of median weekly earnings of £539 in 2016.

Earlier in figure 11, Liverpool Combined Authority was shown to have the highest share of LSOAs amongst the most deprived LSOAs nationally and the lowest share of LSOAs in the least deprived LSOAs nationally out of the combined authority areas. Liverpool and Knowsley local authorities both had over 60% of their neighbourhoods in the most deprived 20% and rank among the 10 most deprived local authorities in England. Wirral and Sefton however had the lowest share of LSOAs in the most deprived 20% and the highest share of LSOAs in the least deprived 20% amongst the local authorities in Liverpool Combined Authority. When analysing deprivation via towns and cities, Southport (in Sefton) was also the least deprived major town in the North West.

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6. Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Combined Authority

Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Combined Authority consistently performs above the national average across the range of indicators explored in the Combined Authority Comparisons section. It is most comparable to the West of England Combined Authority and both areas stood apart from the remaining combined authority areas. Peterborough and Cambridgeshire is different from the other combined authority areas with a mayoral election in that it is not a traditional “city region” as parts of the area span a more rural geography. Cambridge, East Cambridgeshire, Fenland, Huntingdonshire, Peterborough and South Cambridgeshire are the 6 local authorities which make up the combined authority. The 2 largest local authorities (by population), Cambridge and Peterborough, are very different in terms of their area profile.

Peterborough and Cambridgeshire had the highest employment rate of the combined authority areas at 77.6%. Within the combined authority, employment rates were consistently high across the local authorities and only Fenland had an employment rate below the UK average at 71.1% compared to 73.7%. South Cambridgeshire had a particularly high employment rate of 83.4%, at almost ten percentage points above the UK average. The employment rate for South Cambridgeshire was also the highest employment rate for all local authorities within the combined authority areas. In Fenland the male employment rate was around the average UK male employment rate, however, the female employment rate in Fenland was over 5 percentage points below the UK average contributing towards its lower overall employment rate.

As well as very high employment, Peterborough and Cambridgeshire is also characterised by the high qualifications of residents. In fact in 2015, the share of residents with a degree-level qualification in Cambridge Local Authority was the fourth-highest overall in the country and the highest outside of London at 66.5%. Here the differences within the combined authority are particularly stark between Peterborough and Fenland and Cambridge. By comparison, 26.1% of residents in Peterborough had a degree-level qualification, 40 percentage points lower than the share in Cambridge. Similarly in Fenland the share of residents with a degree-level qualification was 28.4% which was 8.5 percentage points below the national average.

The difference between the local authorities with the highest and lowest median weekly earnings is also greater than for any other of the Combined Authorities. Resident weekly earnings were highest by far in South Cambridgeshire at £672, nearly £100 above Cambridge which had the second-highest earnings (£589) and over £200 higher than Peterborough (£467). Workplace earnings were also highest in South Cambridgeshire although the differences between earnings in the local authorities were smaller. These differences in earnings can partly be explained by differences in the industrial structure of the local authorities. South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge, the 2 areas with the highest workplace earnings, had the greatest shares of employment in Scientific and Technical activities at 26.7% and 15.9% respectively. In Cambridge, Education was the industrial group with the highest share of employment at 21.7%.

In the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) South Cambridgeshire ranks as one of the least deprived local authority in England at 314 out of a total of 326 local authorities. The remaining local authorities in Cambridgeshire also ranked relatively well in the index. By contrast Fenland and Peterborough were ranked at 55 and 58 respectively. Although the share of neighbourhoods in the most deprived 20% nationally was not particularly high in Fenland at 21.8%, none of the neighbourhoods in Fenland fell in the least 20% deprived nationally. Peterborough had 8% of neighbourhoods in the least deprived 20% nationally but a much higher share of LSOAs in the most deprived 20% nationally at 35.7%.

Property prices in the combined authority were highest in the local authority of Cambridge at £404,000 in December 2016, more than double the average property price in both Peterborough and Fenland. Indeed, the average price of a flat sold in Cambridge was higher than the average price of a detached house in Fenland.

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7. Tees Valley Combined Authority

The Tees Valley Combined Authority consists of the 5 local authorities of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton- On-Tees. As shown in section 1, by population and by size of the economy it is the smallest of the combined authorities electing a mayor, and tends to perform below the national average across the indicators featured here. Tees Valley has not seen the population growth experienced by the other smaller combined authorities the West of England and Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, and is different demographically as it has an older population.

Figure 25 shows the employment rate for Tees Valley from October 2015 to September 2016 was below the UK average at 68.1%. Darlington was the only local authority within the Tees Valley for which the employment rate was above the UK average at 74.7%. The employment rate in Stockton-on-Tees was slightly below average (72.0%) whilst the employment rate in the remaining local authorities were all between 7 and 11 percentage points below the UK average with the lowest 62.9% in Hartlepool.

Shown in figure 26, median weekly earnings were highest on both a workplace and a residence basis in Stockton-on-Tees. In other words the earnings of those employed in Stockton-on-Tees and the earnings of those who live in Stockton-on-Tees were the highest of the local authorities within Tees Valley. However differences between earnings in the local authorities were comparatively small and earnings averaged below the UK average of £539 a week in all of the local authorities within the combined authority.

With a relatively weak labour market and low earnings, net internal migration to Tees Valley is negative with outflows exceeding the number of inflows. Further to this, population estimate growth rates between 2011 and 2015 show that all 5 local authorities have experienced very low population growth and the population of Darlington decreased. Darlington, Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland also saw increases in the share of residents in the 65 and over age group. In particular, the share of residents aged 65 and over in Redcar and Cleveland was 4 percentage points above the share in the UK at 21.6% having increased by 2 percentage points from 2011.

Tees Valley was shown in the first section of this article to have the lowest life expectancy at birth for both males and females of the combined authorities. Table 21 shows life expectancy across the local authorities was below the national average for both males and females and lowest for both in Middlesbrough at 76.1 and 79.8 years respectively.

All local authorities within Tees Valley also ranked relatively poorly in the Index of Multiple of Deprivation (IMD). Middlesbrough was the most deprived local authority in the combined authority ranked as the 16th most deprived local authority in England whilst Stockton-on-Tees was the least deprived but still ranked at 130 out of a total of 326 local authorities. Patterns in relative deprivation, mapped in figure 17, show the most deprived neighbourhoods were clustered around Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Hartlepool. There was also a cluster of neighbourhoods amongst the most deprived nationally around the centre of Darlington. Parts of Darlington and Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees also ranked among some of the least deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

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8. The West Midlands Combined Authority

The West Midlands is the largest of the combined authorities in this report with a population of 2.8 million at the latest 2015 mid-year estimates. Birmingham is the largest local authority in the combined authority home to 1.1 million residents. The remaining population is more or less evenly distributed between the other 6 constituent local authorities: Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. For many of the indicators explored earlier in the article, the West Midlands performed below the other combined authorities. However, similar to Greater Manchester, within the West Midlands Combined Authority there were large differences between the 7 constituent local authorities.

As seen in figure 4, the employment rate in the West Midlands city region from Oct 2015 to Sept 2016 was the lowest of all city regions at 65.1%, 8.8 percentage points lower than the Great Britain average. Table 10 shows there were large differences in employment rate between the constituent local authorities, ranging by 11.2 percentage points from 61.9% in Birmingham to 73.1% in Solihull. The employment rate for Great Britain was 73.9%.

The West Midlands was also shown to have the lowest female employment rate of all combined authorities. There were particularly large differences in female employment rate within the combined authority with the lowest in Birmingham at 54.5%, and the highest 69.4% in Solihull which was similar to the national average.

Solihull was the only local authority in the combined authority with a lower share of residents with no qualifications than Great Britain (shown in figure 29). It also has the highest share of residents with a level 4 qualification (degree level). In Sandwell, by contrast, there are more residents with no qualifications than with level 4 qualifications. Sandwell is in fact the only local authority in Great Britain for which the share of residents with no qualifications is higher than the share of residents with a degree-level qualification. In Great Britain overall there are more than 4 times as many residents with level 4 qualifications than with no qualifications.

Low qualifications also inevitably have an impact on earnings, shown earlier in figure 9 to be comparatively low for the combined authority. Table 11 shows earnings for residents in the West Midlands Combined Authority were below the UK average in 5 of the 7 local authorities. Gross weekly earnings of residents in Coventry were on par with the UK average at £539 and above average in Solihull at £617. Earnings of residents were lowest in Wolverhampton, nearly £180 below Solihull at £441 a week.

This combination of low employment rates and inward commuting contributed towards the West Midlands having the lowest gross disposable household income (GDHI) per head in 2014 as shown in figure 10. GDHI per head for each local authority is shown in figure 30. Only Solihull had GDHI greater than the UK average at over £19,000 per head. Sandwell had the lowest GDHI per head at £12,505 per head in 2014.

The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) allows the comparison of living standards between neighbourhoods within the combined authority. Slightly below Liverpool Combined Authority (45%), the West Midlands had 44% of its neighbourhoods in the most deprived 20% nationally, shown in figure 12. Much of the combined authority consists of neighbourhoods falling amongst the more deprived deciles with the exception of the areas around Sutton Coldfield and Solihull.

Birmingham (11th), Sandwell (12th) and Wolverhampton (19th) all rank amongst the 20 most deprived local authorities in England, consistently appearing among the most deprived local authorities across a number of the domains including employment and income. By contrast, Solihull ranks the least deprived in the IMD out of the local authorities in the Combined authority at 178th out of the 326 local authorities in England.

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9. The West of England Combined Authority

The West of England Combined Authority comprises the 3 local authorities of Bath and North East Somerset, City of Bristol and South Gloucestershire. As seen in the combined authority comparisons section, the West of England is characterised by a high-performing labour market and economy. The West of England has also experienced the largest recent population growth of the combined authorities having increased by nearly 5% since 2011. This population growth was relatively evenly spread between the 3 local authorities. All 3 local authorities also perform consistently above the national average across a variety of indicators such as employment rates shown in table 12.

South Gloucestershire had the highest employment rate of the 3 local authorities at 79.3%. Male and female employment rates in South Gloucestershire were also both well above average. For Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset, the male employment rates were the same as the UK average at 78.7% however the female employment rates were above average, contributing to the combined authorities overall high employment rate.

The West of England’s performance and accompanying population growth has had a noticeable impact on the affordability of housing in the combined authority. The average property price in Bath and North East Somerset in December 2016 was £330,000, £110,000 greater than the median price in the UK. Bristol has seen the largest growth in median price paid however, having risen by 50% from 2011.

Despite the combined authority’s overall success, looking at smaller geographies reveals inequalities between areas within the combined authority, particularly within local authorities. Disparities can firstly be seen in the Index of Multiple Deprivation where Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire rank amongst the least deprived local authorities in the country at 268 and 274 respectively (out of 326). Bristol ranks substantially lower down at 77, with 29.4% of neighbourhoods in the most deprived 20% nationally compared to just 0.6% in South Gloucestershire and 4.3% in Bath and North East Somerset.

Inequality can also be seen in income looking at the latest income estimates for middle layer super output areas (MSOAs) in 2013 to 2014 (MSOAs are areas averaging a population of around 10,000 or around 4,000 households). Table 34 shows that Bristol had the greatest disparity in income between its MSOAs with 11% of MSOAs in the 2 lowest income brackets and 9% of MSOAs in the 2 highest income brackets. By contrast there were no MSOAs in South Gloucestershire or Bath and North East Somerset in the2 lowest income brackets and just 4% of MSOAs in Bath and North East Somerset in the highest income brackets.

The modal income group for Bristol was £457 to £501 where 25% of MSOAs fell. For South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset the £547 to £591 income bracket was where the greatest share of MSOAs fell at 34% and 26% respectively.

As well as disparities in income, the West of England Combined Authority also has differences in both its share of residents with a degree-level qualification and the share of pupils entering into higher education. As shown in figure 3 the West of England had the highest share of residents with a degree-level qualification out of the combined authority areas at 45%. However, only 5 local authorities in England had a lower share of pupils entering higher education than in Bristol which had a share of 26%, more than 10 percentage points below the average for England (37%). South Gloucestershire (31%) and Bath and North East Somerset (35%) also have shares below the national average.

The low levels of entry to higher education are particularly seen in students from lower income families (students receiving free school meals (FSM)) progressing to higher education. This was substantially lower than the national average (22%), and other major local authorities in city regions such as Birmingham (30%), Manchester (25%), and Liverpool (20%). In Bath and North East Somerset, students not receiving FSM are around 3 times more likely to enter into higher education than students receiving FSM.

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Contact details for this Article

Richard Prothero
better.info@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44(0) 1329 447825