Request for help from hyperlocals

I’m on secondment with Big Lottery Fund’s West Midlands team at the moment, helping them with their BIG Local work. If you know of any hyperlocal blogs or social media surgeries serving the following areas, please could you leave me a comment below, tweet to @thewmro or email me oliver.nicholls [at] wmro.org

  • Bromford & Firs Estate (Birmingham)
  • East Coseley (Dudley)
  • Horsefair, Broadwaters, Greenhill (Kidderminster)
  • Tividale  – Grace Mary to Lion Farm (Sandwell)
  • Gobowen, St. Martins, Chell Heath (Shropshire)
  • Chell Heath & Fegg Hays (Stoke on Trent)

Thank you

Local Enterprise Partnerships need to act to reinvigorate the private sector

Distilling machine CERAM Stoke-on-Tent

Weaknesses in the structure of the West Midlands economy mean that it was hit particularly hard by the recent recession and is likely to see further job losses over the next five years.

Our latest briefing paper (pdf, 408kb), produced as part of our West Midlands Skills Assessment 2010, reveals that the West Midlands has a weaker private sector than other parts of the country. The West Midlands has poorer representation of higher value added activities and high growth firms with the potential to create new, skilled jobs.

As a result the West Midlands has seen its share of jobs in the public sector rise more rapidly than anywhere else in the country. It is particularly vulnerable to job losses from the spending cuts announced by the government.

We forecast that West Midlands Gross Value Added (GVA) will grow by only 8% (£8.8 billion) between 2010 and 2015 and there will be a net fall in employment of more than 38,000 people.

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West Midlands particularly vulnerable to public sector job cuts

Public sector employment has grown significantly in recent years across the UK and has been the key driver of the economy’s expansion. But proposals announced by the government to make £83bn worth of cuts in public sector spending are forecast to lead to the loss of up to 600,000 public sector jobs across the UK over the next 6 years, according to a study1 by Oxford Economics.

The West Midlands economy is particularly vulnerable to the impact of the cuts. Between 1998 and 2008 (latest available figures), the West Midlands saw the most significant increase in dependence on public sector employment in the country2.

The share of jobs accounted for by the public sector increased from 22% in 1998 to 27% in 2008, a rise of 5 percentage points, bringing total public sector employment to some 637,000.

We forecast that between 2010 and 2016 there will be a net loss of nearly 50,000 jobs across the West Midlands and, based on the ratio of the number of private sector jobs dependent on public sector spending and the associated supply chain nationally, a further 310,000 jobs are at risk at private sector firms directly or indirectly reliant on public sector spending3.

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Inward investment into the West Midlands 2009/10 – a local analysis

In 2009/10 there were 84 inward investment successes in the West Midlands and another four knowledge-based investments. These investments created over 1,500 new jobs and safeguarded another 4,300.

Although these 88 investments represented the lowest number of jobs created or safeguarded since 1992/93, they also represented the 7th highest total number of projects since 1991.

Pie chart shows 38 inward investments in West Midlands metropolitan areas and 49 inward investments in the shire counties over 2009 to 2010Inward investment is usually spread reasonably evenly between the West Midlands metropolitan areas and the shire counties. In 2009/10 the shire counties attracted the majority of inward investment projects (55%). See left.

However, the metropolitan areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have attracted perhaps just over half of the projects over the years – see below. The number of jobs created and safeguarded also generally follows a similar pattern.

Stacked bar chart shows percentage of inward investments into West Midlands metropolitan areas versus shire counties between 1991 and 2010

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An introduction to geographic information and why it’s important

Brian Higgs from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council gave a presentation about the importance of geographical information (GI) at the Geographical Information Day, hosted by the Observatory on 18th November 2009.

Brian introduced the concept of geographical information and demonstrated practical examples of how GI is used within Dudley MBC. Here’s Brian’s presentation which includes the audio and slides:

Can’t see the presentation? View the video on Viddler.com or get the PowerPoint slides (ppt, 12.7mb).

GIS used to digitise brownfield land sites and inform planning in the Black Country

This guest post was contributed by Christopher Styche from the Black Country Observatory.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) were used as a tool for analysis in a project looking at brownfield land across the Black Country during the end of 2006–2007.

The purpose of the project was to inform policy makers involved with the implementation plans for the Black Country and emerging core strategy.

There was a strong partnership approach to this work with representatives from all four local authorities (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton), as well as the Homes and Community Agency and Advantage West Midlands.

This post describes the project step-by-step and the role of GIS within the project.

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Government awards grant to boost town centres

Erdington artspace exhibitionThe government is making £3 million available to help areas hardest hit by the recession find creative ways to reduce the negative impact empty shops are having on the high street.

Coventry, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Dudley, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Walsall councils are each being given a grant of £52, 632.

The councils will use the grants as they see fit to boost town centres and transform empty shops into a variety of places including learning centres, meeting places or a showroom for artists.

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