Metropolitan West Midlands remains the UK’s poorest sub-region in latest gross disposable household income estimates

Office for National StatisticsThe 2008 Regional Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) (pdf, 113kb) estimates are released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Indexed GDHI per head (where UK=100) for the West Midlands in 2008 was 90, stable in comparison to the revised 2007 index value of 90.

GDHI per head in the West Midlands rose from £12,800 in 2007 to £13,300 in 2008, an increase of 3.8 per cent, in line with the increase seen in England and the UK.

Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) per head is preferred to Gross Value Added (GVA) per head as a measure of economic welfare.

In the 2008 data, the West Midlands in regards to GDHI per head was ranked seventh amongst the nine English regions. London is the strongest performer at £19,000 and the North East is the least strong at £12,500.

In total, regional GDHI for the West Midlands region in 2008 was £72.2bn, an increase of £3.0bn on the revised figures for 2007.

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Breaking into the Low Carbon Economyhttps://wmro.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/higher-level-skills-can-help-boost-the-region%e2%80%99s-economic-recovery/

Car breakers and recyclers, along with the construction industry, could benefit significantly from existing and future low carbon legislation according to research from the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

The low carbon agenda is gaining pace as the West Midlands seeks a way out of recession, because of the range of opportunities that it provides.

In a low carbon economy businesses deliver products and services, while reducing their level of carbon emissions. We tend to link the low carbon economy with high-tech industry and high levels of innovation, technology and investment. However, the Observatory’s research has found that the opportunities stretch well beyond hydrogen cells, solar panels, electric cars and science parks. There are a number of opportunities for the rest of the region’s economy.

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Continuing professional development company uses Regional Skills Assessments to inform their research

Recently, I interviewed Kim White, a member of our Economy & Labour Force topic group, about his use of the Regional Skills Assessment to direct the work of his organisation.

In October 2008, Kim, Chief Executive of Intelligent Career Development Limited (also known as i-CD) and was given the task by the Vice Chancellor of Wolverhampton University to set up a company specialising in Continuing Professional and Personal Development (CPPD).

i-CD is the result of a project conducted to identify the most effective way for the University to provide support to businesses in the area of CPPD. i-CD specifically works to develop courses and schedules which students and employers, in the workplace, find useful and relevant.

Kim used a variety of sources to help inform his research into the needs of employers and students, and to identify potential gaps within the CPPD marketplace.

The Regional Skills Assessment 2007 (pdf, 714kb), published by the West Midlands Regional Observatory, was one such source.

Kim said that the Regional Skills Assessment 2007 helped him to identify:

  • The need to train and upskill more employees to NVQ level 4 and above
  • The barriers to engagement in employment and learning (such as encouraging more students and graduates to remain in the West Midlands after graduation)

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Implications of 2009 research and development scoreboard for West Midlands

The 2009 R&D Scoreboard, produced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, examines the research and development spending of 1,000 UK companies. Dubbed the UK1000, these are the businesses which invested the largest amounts in R&D.

The Scoreboard does not measure total research and development spending, merely the biggest investors, so some substantial businesses (not to mention the wider business population) are not captured in the figures.

The Scoreboard also considers the top 1,000 companies globally (G1000), which includes only a subset of the UK1000, in order to make international comparisons.

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Better Evidence… Better Funding Bids event roundup

The Observatory and Regional Action West Midlands jointly organised Better Evidence… Better Funding Bids, an event held in Birmingham on 19th March.

The aim of the event was to highlight the importance of evidence in funding applications. 50 delegates from a range of voluntary and public sector organisations attended the day.

This post rounds up videos, presentation slides, links and reaction to the event.

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New report sheds more light on West Midlands geography

In the public sector, many of our policies, strategies and services follow administrative boundaries such as regions, local authorities, police force areas, primary care trusts or even wards.

But out there in the real world, people don’t live their lives as neatly as that. Many people live in one place and work, learn or shop in others. Businesses too have customers and suppliers from many different places.

Whilst every person, and every business is different, understanding the patterns in these kinds of links between places is important.

For example, when analysing the local labour market it is no good just looking at the people who live locally if many local workers come from elsewhere.

Understanding “functional geographies” has always been important but the issue’s profile has been raised in recent times as government has sought to devolve more responsibility for economic development to sub-regional and local areas.

Over the next year all upper tier and unitary local authorities will need to produce Local Economic Assessments. Government guidance says that these will need to “identify the economic linkages within the area assessed and between it and the wider economy.”

In preparation for this, the Observatory has just published a report looking at some of the key sub-regional links between places in the West Midlands.

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Evidencing third sector funding bids

This is a guest post by Sian McClure, Information & Communications Manager at Regional Action West Midlands.

Regional Action West Midlands was pleased to be involved in hosting the Better Evidence… Better Funding Bids event with the West Midlands Regional Observatory last Friday.

As well as including a great group of delegates, the event meant we could promote our recent research to some new faces. We’ve published some important research over the last 12 months, which includes The economic footprint of the voluntary and community sector in the West Midlands, and a series of briefings on the impact of the recession on the sector.

Securing funding is a perennial issue for the third sector, and forthcoming public sector cuts will only make it more difficult. This makes the use of relevant, timely and appropriate evidence critical to funding applications.

As Manisha Patel and Laura Moore from the Big Lottery Fund, and Pete Cunnison from Lloyds TSB Foundation were clear, evidence needs to match the funders’ priorities. Right now, being clear about funders’ priorities and having the evidence to show how and why your organisation can meet them is more important than ever. In other words, none of us can afford to ‘wing it.’

After Easter, Regional Action West Midlands will publish a seventh briefing under the banner ‘Responding to the Downturn’, which will provide some of this much-needed clarity to third sector organisations.

For more information about Regional Action West Midlands and the work we do to support the third sector in the West Midlands visit www.rawm.org.uk or email sianm [at] rawm.co.uk.

Supporting researchers in the West Midlands

On 19th January 2010, the Local Authorities Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) and the West Midlands Regional Observatory held a workshop session for local authority researchers in the region.

Around 30 researchers from councils across the West Midlands attended to discuss the new and emerging challenges facing us as researchers, to hear more about the support networks that exist to help us do our jobs better – at national, regional and local level – and to identify some positive actions where support networks could better help the local research community.

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New plan to harness £16 billion public spending for local benefit

A new plan that could help local people benefit from £16 billion of government spending in the West Midlands was launched by Regional Minister, Ian Austin, this week.

And he said government spending would be used to boost employment for people in the West Midlands and help access “local jobs for local people.”

The new West Midlands Procurement Framework for jobs and skills has been developed by the West Midlands Economic Inclusion Panel. This brings leaders from across the public, private and third sectors together to find ways to tackle the £3bn output gap ascribed to worklessness in the West Midlands.

Set up in 2008 to address the region’s worklessness challenge, the Economic Inclusion Panel  has focussed on developing a strategic approach to public procurement as a key driver in tackling worklessness. The Observatory’s economic inclusion team works closely with the Panel to provide evidence of the challenges facing the region.

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West Midlands at the heart of European Climate Change Programme

EIT knowledge and innovation communityBusinesses, academics and public agencies in the West Midlands gathered this week to find out how they can benefit from a new €120 million Europe-wide climate change programme.

Climate – Knowledge Innovation Communities (KIC) is a unique programme, from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, which brings together five of Europe’s top universities (including Imperial College and ETH Zurich), 10 leading companies (including CISCO and Shell), and six major European regions including the West Midlands.

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What is the low carbon economy?

The low carbon economy has increased its importance in recent years, but do you know what it means?

A low carbon economy is one where businesses deliver their products and services while, at the same time, they reduce their level of carbon emissions.

A question I’m often asked is ‘which are the sectors included in the low carbon economy?’.

However, it is not easy question to answer. The definition shows that the low carbon economy is not a list of sectors, but a distinctive characteristic that crosses over a wide range of sectors. As long as businesses achieve reductions in their carbon emissions, they are part of the low carbon economy.

In this sense, the low carbon economy is much more than just the traditional environmental products and services such as energy generation or electric cars.

The Observatory recently published a report about the Low Carbon Economy in the West Midlands. The research found that:

  • The low carbon economy can deliver opportunities across a wide range of business sectors, not just to those seen as being in the ‘traditionally’ environmental technologies sector.
  • The sectors with clear opportunities in the West Midlands include: Non-​metallic mineral goods; Automotive & transport equipment; Metals & metal products; Construction; Environmental Goods & Services; Food & beverages; Transport, storage & communications; and Public services.
  • Businesses can benefit from the low carbon economy in two ways: diversify into new low carbon products or become more efficient in their current processes (decarbonise).

The West Midlands has an important manufacturing legacy and businesses in this sector are already taking part in the low carbon economy by increasing their efficiency related to processes, resources, utilities and waste.

Evidence supporting this is presented in Measuring Performance – Environment Survey 2009, a report produced by EEF.

The survey asked about environmental issues across manufacturing companies in the UK. The survey identified that businesses are increasingly aware of the benefits to gain by adopting resource efficiency improvements.

Key findings include:

  • Manufacturers are adopting a range of environmental strategies mainly around recycling, reduction of business waste and energy efficiency improvements
  • Manufacturers have reported cost savings from adopting environmental strategies

The low carbon economy can be the vehicle with which the West Midlands can achieve economic growth without compromising our natural environment. Would you like to take part in it?

Observatory website survey reponses now available

Thank you to everyone who completed the Observatory’s recent website satisfaction survey. We have taken all of your responses and comments on board and are now working on making our website more user friendly.

As part of our review of web services, we’re planning the following actions based on your responses:

  • Improve the profile of research gaps on wmro.org
  • Ensure all records in the Resource Catalogue have a metadata summary page
  • Remove the Directory of Specialists from the website, create a network group in LinkedIn and encourage users to relocate their profiles there.
  • Remove the organisations directory from wmro.org

Following more investigation with users, we’ll also review the future of the Register of Consultants.

We’ve decided to remove some of our website services (Directory of Specialists, organisations directory and possibly the Register of Consultants) based on the results of the survey.

The results showed that these areas are rarely used, are not valued and of limited importance.

This will allow us to concentrate our efforts on those areas of the website we know are of high importance to most users:

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New Deal for Communities has brought significant improvements to deprived neighbourhoods in West Midlands

A new report  published by Communities and Local Government, A New Deal for Communities Experience: A final assessment (pdf, 779kb), highlights how government investment has had a positive impact on the six New Deal for Communities (NDC) areas in the West Midlands.

The £2 billion flagship regeneration programme between 2001 and 2008 helped:

  • Reduce the proportion of working age residents in Walsall NDC area with no qualifications by 17 percentage points
  • Raised the satisfaction with housing to 91% in 2008
  • Reduced the proportion of residents in the Aston NDC area feeling unsafe in the dark from 20% to 17% in 2008
  • 81% of residents in Kings Norton NDC area feel they had good access to a doctor in 2008
  • 69% of residents in the Sandwell NDC area felt the NDC had improved their area

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The importance of historic farm buildings

Three farm buildings

Thanks to Amanda Smith from English Heritage and member of the Environment Group for providing this guest post.

Historic farm buildings make a fundamental contribution to the landscape character and local distinctiveness of the region, and are an important part of our cultural heritage. They also represent a significant asset in terms of their capacity to adapt to accommodate new uses.

Traditional farm buildings, however, are under great pressure for change due to the restructuring of the agricultural industry and the high demand for their adaptive re-use, especially for housing. Only a small proportion of the historic farm building stock is subject to listing and statutory protection, and national studies have demonstrated that these designated assets have already undergone significant change.

Until recently there was a lack of an evidence base on the character and condition of the whole stock of historic farm buildings (not just designated assets) on which to inform the sensitive management of change and the effective targeting of conservation resources.

English Heritage is leading a collaborative project that will develop an evidence base for historic farmsteads across the West Midlands region.

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New indicators on regional progress towards sustainable development

An update of 46 measures of regional progress towards sustainable development in England was published on 25 February 2010 by Government statisticians in Defra.

The indicators help provide an overview of economic, social and environmental issues in each English region.

Here are the West Midlands highlights:

The proportion of new dwellings built on previously developed land was higher than the national average and vehicle related theft was lower than the national average in the West Midlands. The West Midlands had seen the largest percentage decrease in the number of people reported killed or seriously injured in road accidents.

The rate of violent crime was highest in the West Midlands.  Infant mortality was the highest of all regions. The proportion of households experiencing fuel poverty was amongst the highest of the regions.

Source: Defra news release 25 February 2010 [link no longer available]

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