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West Midlands councils must build a local economy fit for the future,  says Institute of Economic Development ahead of Birmingham visit


The Institute of Economic Development (IED), the UK’s professional body representing economic development and regeneration practitioners, has called for the West Midlands to build on its past successes and create local economies which are fit for the future.

The IED comes to Birmingham on Tuesday 22nd May for its quarterly board meeting and Executive Director Nigel Wilcock said the West Midlands was a region that other parts of the UK point to for securing and achieving growth.

“The West Midlands is a fascinating region because over a 10-year period, up to and including 2016, it was the fastest-growing UK region outside London and the South East,” he explained. “The largest growth has been achieved through the automotive and other transport industry manufacture, a position that may have been doubted after the closure of Rover and Peugeot. The transport manufacturing sector more than doubled in economic output and electricity generation was the second fastest growing sector.”

Yet whilst much of the West Midlands has grown faster than the UK average, the economic output per person is starting from a base lower than the UK average of £26,584. Mr Wilcock said: “Of the Birmingham local authorities, only Solihull (£33,777) has an economic output per person above the UK average. Coventry (£23,637) is the next highest performing area but its output per head is below the UK average, although it is growing the fastest in the area. Dudley (£16,054) has the lowest economic output per head in the West Midlands and, in addition, this position has been worsening as it also records the lowest growth. This suggests that more work is to be done in the region around productivity, skills and the attraction of further investment. The West Midlands should do better at software and business services investment given the scale of Birmingham – but it just seems to get ‘lost’ in noise about automotive specifically and manufacturing more generally.”

Mr Wilcock admitted that there are “always tensions around growth and achieving the type of growth we want”, but that local authorities should not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. “Councils need to play to their strengths and position,” he said. “Policies need to be clear on exactly how they are intended to help growth and how the outcome going to be measured but one thing that is guaranteed is that economic development cannot be undertaken without widescale and effective engagement with business. Going forward, the region will inevitably also benefit from closer alignment with the Industrial Strategy and especially the grand challenges around Artificial Intelligence/Big Data, Ageing, Future Mobility and Clean Growth.”

West Midlands-based IED members are invited to meet the Institute’s board members during their visit to Birmingham on Tuesday 22nd May.


For further information please contact Phil Smith, Institute of Economic Development PR consultant, on 01778 218180 / 07866 436159 / phil@philsmithcommunications.co.uk.

Notes to editors:

The Institute of Economic Development (IED) is the UK’s leading independent professional body representing economic development and regeneration practitioners. Established over 30 years ago, the IED's key objective is to represent the interests of economic development practitioners and ensure their views are widely expressed and noted. The IED is committed to demonstrating the value of economic development work for local and regional communities; the pursuit of best practice in economic development and the attainment of the highest standards of professional conduct and competence.

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