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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Inward investment: record high for West Midlands

In the period 2008 to 2009 the West Midlands region received 117 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects, a record high since records began in 1991 (shown by the blue line in the graph below).

Bar chart shows increase in foreign direct investment into the West Midlands between 1991 and 2009

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Observatory collaborates with CSWP to develop new sub-regional strategy

cswp-logoThe Observatory is pleased to continue our long standing links with the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Partnership (CSWP) through a forthcoming project aimed at exploring future economic prospects for the sub-region.

We were commissioned in 2007 to deliver an initial economic assessment for CSWP. This report provided CSWP with a review of the strengths and weaknesses in the wider socio-economic environment for the sub-region as well as outlining future opportunities and threats.

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Latest gross disposable household income estimates indicate metropolitan West Midlands is UK’s poorest sub-region

Office for National Statistics logoThe 2007 Regional Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) (Word, 411KB) estimates are released today by the Office for National Statistics.

Indexed GDHI per head (where UK=100) for the West Midlands in 2007 was 90, stable in comparison to the revised 2006 index value of 90.

GDHI per head in the West Midlands rose from £12,700 in 2006 to £12,900 in 2007, an increase of 1.9%, 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.

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Making information more accessible

InstantAtlas maps

InstantAtlas maps

How to make complex information available to a wider audience and how to make it more easily understand? Those were questions being considered in Coventry this week.

On Tuesday 20th January, Coventry City Council hosted a meeting designed to share ideas on how regional partners were using software to make their information more readily available.

The main focus of the event was Geowise’s InstantAtlas tool, which is used by many public sector organisations to provide a nice clear visual interpretation of the data they hold.

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West Midlands local development annual monitoring reports

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires local planning authorities to regularly monitor planning policies that affect the planning and development of their areas.

Each council is required to produce an Annual Monitoring Report which is published in December to assess the effectiveness of policy in the Local Development Framework.

These show whether the progress towards targets and milestones in the Local Development Framework are being met and whether council planning policies are being successfully implemented. If policies are not working as intended – or are not achieving sustainable objectives – the Annual Monitoring Report includes suggested actions.

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Sharing intelligence from Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire

Yesterday, I attended the Coventry, Solihull and Wawickshire Researchers’ Forum to demonstrate the Observatory’s Resource Catalogue and show how the data and intelligence in the catalogue might support the work that they’re engaged in, and also to encourage further contributions to the catalogue from members of the forum to help share their data and intelligence across the region and sub-region.

The Resource Catalogue is available through the Observatory’s website and collects research, data and policy documents from across the West Midlands to create a fully searchable database for policy makers, decision makers, researchers and anyone else to access. There are contributions from organisations across the public, private and third sectors and what is particularly useful is that almost all are free and available immediately via a web-link.

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