Small and medium-sized enterprise 2007 statistics published

The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has just published its 2007 Statistics on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK and its regions, including a statistical press release and a suite of data tables.

This year’s release includes the bi-annual regional breakdown of the national figures, listing the numbers of enterprises of various sizes in the West Midlands and other regions. The figures suggest several changes since 2005: the total number of enterprises increased by more than 20 000 to over 375 000, and total turnover increased by 10% to more than £210 billion.

Contributions to turnover were not even. 0.1% of all West Midlands enterprises employed 37% of the region’s employees, and contributed to 42% of the turnover.

Economic activity in the West Midlands continues to slow

Latest economic output data suggest that the regional economy continues to slow down.

The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is based on surveys undertaken by Markit Economics on behalf of the Royal Bank of Scotland. It is an important indicator of current market conditions.

The index is derived such that a level of 50 signals no change since the previous month, above 50 signals an increase (or improvement) and below 50 a decrease (or contraction). The greater the divergence from 50, the greater the rate of change signalled.

The latest data from the PMI West Midlands report (pdf, 232kb) signalled the fastest decline in business activity in the region in almost seven years in June, as new business fell for the eighth month running. Continue reading

Crime in England and Wales 2007/08

The Home Office has recently released their annual publication Crime in England and Wales for 2007/08  This is the seventh report in the series which combines reporting of police report crime and the British Crime Survey.

The police recorded and BCS figures are a complementary series that together provide a better picture of crime than could be obtained from either series alone.  Commentary and accompanying data are available on a range of different types of crime, for example: vehicle crime, violent crime, and burglary in addition to fear of crime.

In line with the data release, you may be interested to know that the crime indicators within the State of the Region 2008 Quality of Life dataset have been updated.

Birmingham boasts tourism boost

Marketing Birmingham released their Annual Visitor Survey 2007 earlier this week.

The research, carried out in August and September last year, indicate that a record 31.9 million people visited the city for leisure in 2007. A resulting £4.4 billion was spent in the city as a result.

The number of visitors was a 1.5 million increase on the previous year, with increases in spending seen in most sectors. Wining and dining proved particularly popular with a reported £55 million increase in spending compared with 2006, but the survey found that it was the retail sector that outperformed others with a £242m increase.

When asked their favourite aspect of the city, it was the city’s canals that proved to be the most popular with just over 20% of respondents saying that the waterways were Birmingham’s best selling point.

The full report includes visitor profiles, data on accommodation, eating out, shopping, leisure and transport. Further data on tourism in the city and the region is available on Marketing Birmingham’s research pages.

West Midlands sub-regional information sources

If you are looking for specific data or information about one of the sub-regions, in addition to our Resource Catalogue on, you might also like to try one of the sub-regional intelligence units.

Here is a list of some of them to help you track down the information that you need.

In addition to these, many of the local authorities also have intelligence or research units that can provide data and statistics. I’ve previously looked at one, Research Sandwell, in an earlier posting.

If you have other sources of sub-regional information that are not listed here, why not post a comment to let others know about it. And of course, you can always submit details of any research and data sources relevant to the West Midlands to the resource catalogue, thereby making it even easier for others to track down!

Road Statistics 2007: Traffic, Speeds and Congestion

The Department for Transport published Road Statistics 2007: Traffic, Speeds and Congestion on 24 July 2008.  This bulletin includes the first release of National Statistics on 2007 Road Traffic, Free Flow Vehicle Speeds in Great Britain, and Traffic Speeds on the Strategic Road Network in England.

The bulletin also includes further information about congestion on urban and inter-urban roads.  Data is available down to Government Office Region for several of the indicators, providing a useful source of data.


BuildingWe receive a number of enquiries through our research enquiries service. One of the most frequently asked questions is “how many businesses are there in the West Midlands?”

The Inter Departmental Business Register (IDBR) is a key source of information on business activity and can be broken down to Local Authority District level.  It is updated annually, containing data on VAT traders and PAYE employers in a statistical register comprising of 2.1 million businesses.  Data can also be broken down by size of business in terms of the number of employees, or amount of turnover generated and by sector. Continue reading

Data presentation techniques

On 18 July, several members of the Observatory attended a masterclass on data presentation hosted by the Association of Regional Observatories. Speakers at the event included Ed Swires-Hennessy (Local Government Data Unit, Wales), Alan Smith (Head of Data Visualisation, Office for National Statistics) and Robert Radburn (Research and Information Team, Leicestershire County Council).

It’s going to take some time to work through the wealth of information showcased at the event, but some of the techniques demonstrated there have already provided food for thought. Continue reading

Keynote address at Observatory conference by “the most powerful person in the West Midlands”

Liam Byrne

Liam Byrne

Liam Byrne MP, Minister for the West Midlands, was announced as the most powerful person in the West Midlands on Friday of last week according to the Birmingham Post’s “Power 50” list.

Liam will give the key-note address at the Observatory’s annual conference on 13th October 2008, launching the State of the Region synthesis report and focusing on the importance of a robust evidence base for the region’s strategies – particularly the forthcoming Integrated Regional Strategy.

Julia King, the Vice-Chancellor of Aston University (herself number 3 on the “Power 50”) will form part of a panel of experts who will answer questions from delegates in the morning session. The panel also includes Cllr Roger Phillips, Brian Woods Scawen, Mike Beasley and Tracey O’Brian.

Places cost just £60 and are limited in number – so book your place now!

The role of work placements in graduate retention

The Regional Observatory’s skills team have recently completed a major research project on graduate retention, attraction and employment for the Regional Skills Partnership and the West Midlands Higher Education Association.

One of the key findings is that 40% of graduates leave the region to find employment, especially in higher skilled, higher paying jobs in high value-added high technology industries and knowledge based services. Graduates from the Universities of Warwick, Keele and Aston are most likely to leave the region while those from Coventry and Wolverhampton Universities are most likely to stay.

The research also found that graduates who take part in work placement activity are much more likely to stay in the region. They have forged links beyond the university campus and are more likely to have got beyond the stereotypes of what the region is like as a place to live and work. Continue reading

Sports participation in England

Sport England has recently published a series of sports information packs for 42 sports which bring together research data from the Active People Survey, Taking Part Survey and Sport England’s market segmentation research.

The packs provide a detailed overview of each sport with data and analysis including:

  • Participation data by key demographic groups
  • Demographic profile of participants
  • Seasonal and regional participation rates
  • Participation rates among 11-15 year olds
  • Drop off rates among 16-18 year olds
  • Organised sport
  • Information from Sport England’s market segmentation

As riders are currently competing in this year’s Tour de France with Britain’s Mark Cavendish hitting the headlines with an unprecedented four stage victories in the opening two weeks of the Tour, I thought I’d take a quick look at the Cycling information pack. Continue reading

Forthcoming research from the West Midlands Cultural Observatory

You may be interested to know about research currently being conducted at the West Midlands Cultural Observatory.

Over the next year, we will be producing three evidence papers which draw together what we know about the impact of culture on ‘prosperity’, ‘people’ and ‘place’ in the West Midlands. Not only will this help to inform regional policy, the aim is that the papers will also provide a useful reference tool for everyone in the sector needing to ‘make the case’ for culture.

The first paper to be developed will look at the economic impact of culture, building on Culture West Midland’s Growing the Cultural Economy in the West Midlands (2007) report. The 2007 study estimated that the region’s cultural sector accounts for:

  • 12.5% of the region’s Gross Value Added (from a total turnover of £18 billion p/a)
  • 10.1% of the region’s employment
  • 14.5% of businesses in the region

Continue reading

State of the Countryside 2008 report released

The Commission for Rural Communities launched their tenth annual State of the Countryside report on 16th July 2008. The report assesses the way rural England has changed over the last ten years by considering the social, economic and environmental issues facing rural England.

The report is split into three chapters: living in the countryside, economic well-being, and land and environment.

Drawing out some of the implications for the region, an article on suggests that the report paints a challenging picture for the rural West Midlands.

Severn Trent Draft Water Resources Plan – Consultation Event

Blue lake in summerSevern Trent’s Water Resources Management Plan sets out how they intend to provide supplies of water to customers over the next 25 years and beyond.  The Plan explains the challenges faced and the uncertainties to deal with in planning for the future. It explains the range of options open to ensure that the future demand for water is met, and it sets out a proposed strategy.

The proposed strategy includes demand management and leakage reduction, as well as new water resource development in the longer term.

This is the first time that Severn Trent have needed to go through a public consultation process and therefore it was a new experience for both sides.

I attended on behalf of the Observatory with a particular interest in the social evidence base used to identify the future demand. Severn Trent have used ONS population estimates and have used housing growth projections from the Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS). We were able to feed in that the RSS figures were in the process of being revised by Nathaniel Lichfield for Government Office for West Midlands.

It was interesting to note that the water companies seem disengaged from the development of the RSS and aren’t engaging as closely as they might.

Other issues that are particularly pressing are the impact of nitrates in the catchment area, leakage from the network and the forecast impact of climate change.

Support for e-business adoption

Businessman with a laptop and mobile phoneThe last month has seen the launch of a new business service from the Observatory. We now have an online directory of organisations and websites who will support SMEs in all aspects of e-business adoption. If your business hasn’t yet got any e-business capability or is looking to broaden or expand existing capability then you will find in it things to help increase your competitiveness and profits.

[Ed: This service was archived in August 2009 and is no longer available on]