Keeping up to date with the latest data and statistics

UK National StatisticsBarely a day goes by without an article on the morning news bulletin announcing, “according to the latest figures…” or “statistics released today show that…”

There’s a wealth of data being collected, analysed and published and sometimes you’re left wondering, “how do I keep up with these data releases?”

One of the services I use to help stay on top of the latest available data from central government is the RSS feed from the UK Statistics Authority.

The UK Statistics Authority was set-up by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and its objective is to promote and safeguard the quality of official statistics that serve the public good. It is also required to safeguard the comprehensiveness of official statistics, and ensure good practice in relation to official statistics. It has three main functions, one of which is to monitor and report on all UK official statistics, wherever produced.

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Evaluation of business support services

Business Link logoBusiness support services such as Business Link, Manufacturing Advisory Service and Train to Gain are an important part of the assistance offered to business to help them start, grow and prosper.

The last three years have seen significant changes in the way this support has been organised and delivered and the time is now right to evaluate how things are working out and what changes might be beneficial.

The way in which these services are delivered varies from region to region, so each region is evaluating their services differently. Here in the West Midlands, the Observatory has been asked to manage the research and analysis part of the evaluation. The work is being done speedily and will complete by the end of November.

Observatory on BBC1 Politics Show

The Observatory’s State of the Region Report will feature on the regional section of the BBC’s Politics Show this Sunday (26th Oct 08). The programme starts at 12pm on BBC1. Hope you get chance to watch.

ADDED 28/10/08: The article can be viewed on the BBC’s iplayer. The Observatory features about 43 minutes in and will be available until next Sunday (02/11/08).

70 posts and onwards: WMRO’s social media journey

Students at Aston University with laptopThis Observations site was started at the end of July 2008. The main reason for the site, as the tagline at the top suggests, is to highlight, comment on and signpost to data and intelligence relating to the West Midlands.

After three months and 70 posts, it seems like a good time to quickly review what has happened and gather some ideas on going forward.

It”d be great to learn if the posts written so far on Observations are interesting to you? Are we writing about the right topics? Are there specific topics that we’re not covering that you think should be discussed? Please do add your comments.

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Briefings on current and forthcoming Observatory research

At our recent Annual Conference there were four printed briefing papers on the Observatory booth. These briefing papers introduce four key current and forthcoming research projects.

If you didn’t get a copy, the briefings are available to download below:

West Midlands plans “zero waste” region

The Environment Minister, Jane Kennedy, today announced plans for size ‘Zero Waste Places’ and amongst them was the West Midlands.

Under the new plans, the West Midlands will create a Zero Waste Region, focusing on businesses and organisations that produce a large quantity of waste, identifying region-wide waste infrastructure needs, improving cooperation and cutting business waste right across the region.

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Acknowledging the cross-sector importance of culture

Cover of State of the Region Report 2008October has been an important month for colleagues at the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Not only was the State of the Region Report 2008 launched, along with the Regional Integrated Economic Assessment, the Observatory held its annual conference, attracting a good cross-section of the region’s key thinkers and policy-makers. In all three cases, the importance of culture, particularly to the region’s economy, was highlighted.

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Economic migrants

The subject of economic migrants and what benefits or problems they bring has not been quite as topical in recent months as it has been in the past.

The downturn in the economy and the weakening of the pound are assumed to discourage migration and to encourage economic migrants in the UK to think of returning home.

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Uncertainty over the future of regional cultural research

Chair of the Cultural Research & Intelligence Group and Chief Executive of Museums, Libraries & Archives (MLA) in the West Midlands, Jon Finch provides some insight into the current situation for regional cultural research:

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Climate change targets toughened up

Ed MilibandThe new Energy & Climate Change secretary Ed Miliband (pictured) has today announced that he is to accept the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change to introduce a tougher target on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

The report by the Committee recommended a new target of a reduction in GHG emissions of 80% per annum by 2050 strengthening the existing 60% target.

The West Midlands has the same 60% target to 2050 and is aiming for a 26-32% reduction by 2020 to demonstrate progress.

The revised target does not include aviation or shipping emissions.

Analysing deprivation indicators for the West Midlands

Today is Blog Action Day when thousands of bloggers unite to write about a single issue on the same day from their own angle. This year the issue is poverty.

In December 2007, we produced some analysis of the West Midlands’ performance on the Indices of Deprivation 2007, along with comparisons with the rest of England (PDF, 110KB).

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Mr Mind Maps comes to Birmingham

Tony Buzan, the innovative thinker behind influential concepts such as Mind Maps and Speed Reading, will speaking at the Thinktank, Millennium Point, in Birmingham on 6th November 2008. Tony Buzan was named in 1994 by Forbes magazine as one of five top international lecturers along with Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher.

The event, organised by the Innovation Owners Network and supported by ContactKE, is free of charge (places limited). This is an exciting opportunity to hear from Tony Buzan and to learn more about existing and new ideas to advance, as well as support, developing new ideas.

For more details on the event and how to register, email Professor Adrian Cole at Adrian.Cole@tic.ac.uk.

Observatory annual conference a roaring success

Well, our conference is over for another year – and what a conference it was! A packed Royal Court Hotel enjoyed speeches from our new regional minister, Ian Austin, as well as Professor Carl Chinn and Professor Alan Harding.

Left to right: Richard Hyde (Chair of the Observatory), Ian Austin MP (Minister for the West Midlands), Rosie Paskins (Chief Executive of the Observatory)

Ian Austin (centre) launched the Observatory’s State of the Region 2008 report, saying:

“Through the State of the Region process it is good to see that the West Midlands Regional Observatory is putting in place practical measures to bring policy makers and research experts together.”

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West Midlands Regional Integrated Economic Assessment published

Map of West Midlands regionThe West Midlands is the first English region to produce a Regional Integrated Economic Assessment. The aim of the project is to provide an assessment of the performance of the West Midlands’ economy and of the factors which contribute to it. It also assesses the relative position of the different parts of the region.

The Assessment is made up of:

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West Midlands economy suffers further falls

The latest West Midlands Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Survey released today makes grim reading as it reports further declines in economic output and a worsening of prospects for the next quarter.

Manufacturing firms in the West Midlands reported significant falls in domestic orders and further worsening of exports. This is impacting on investment and confidence, with fewer firms reporting plans for capital investment as expectations of profitability and turnover decline.

In services the picture is mixed, with domestic orders falling but strong growth in exports. Employment growth, while positive, has slowed on the previous quarter and cashflow has deteriorated. In the light of the continuing uncertainty the survey reports business confidence levels falling.

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