News & views

Other pages in this section

Spanning the great divide

7 March 2018

Leicestershire Business Voice: Comments and opinion

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest a growth divide between East and West Midlands as growth in the West Midlands outstrips that in the East. So is it indeed the case that as well as a North South divide we now have an East West divide too?

The headline figures are startling:

  • Between 2009 and 2016 economic output per head rose by 9.2% in the West Midlands , contrasting with 4.6% in the East Midlands.
  • In both regions the number of people in work has grown by 8%.
  • Productivity in the West however was 10% higher in 2016 than in 2009.
  • Productivity in the East was a lower 7% higher in 2016 than in 2009 resulting in lower output.

But wait… generalisations can be misleading. Leicester was identified as a bright spot and cause for optimism amongst its East Midlands neighbours.

Based on projected spending figures (public and joint public/private spending on current and pipelined transport infrastructure projects), the North West and West Midlands will benefit from £2,700 per head. By contrast, only £950 per person (barely a third) is predicted to be spent in the North east, Yorkshire and Humber, and the East Midlands.

Furthermore, in the East Midlands there is a skills gap,  36% of working adults are highly skilled in the West Midlands compared to 31% in the East Midlands.

So what actions are needed?

  • Transport connectivity and digital connectivity must be prioritised .
  • We must demand greater external return and avoid an internal focus.
  • We must retain our talent and profit from the energy and skilled graduate labour force graduation from our local  Universities .

We must ensure the Midlands Engine works for us and not lose out to the stronger voices in the West Midlands. Failure to do so will indeed result in an East West divide – entirely of our own making .