A new short report and data from the ONS, GVA for Local Enterprise Partnerships, 1997-2012 gives, “for the first time” they say, robustly calculated data on economic output for what are now the LEP areas of the English regions. They measure ‘Gross Value Added’ in the UK investment regions, or to put it in simple terms, ‘how much actual wealth was measured as being created in an area’.

Table 8: LEPs with lowest average growth rate per annum of nominal GVA per head, 1997-2012:

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire 2.8%

Coventry and Warwickshire 2.7%

Black Country 2.2%

This barrel-scraping level of growth, in the years of neglect and failure under New Labour, did not set the West Midlands up well for the recession…

Table 10: LEPs with lowest average growth rate per annum of nominal GVA per head, 2007-2012:

Greater Birmingham and Solihull 0.1%

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire 0.0%

Black Country -0.1%

Some of this will be down to, or heavily skewed by, the gross neglect of manufacturing under Labour. Back in December 2013 the ONS found that…

“The region showing the greatest decrease in absolute terms was the West Midlands, where manufacturing accounted for 27.5% of GVA in 1997 and 13.8% of GVA in 2011.”

However it might also be useful to consider that these new figures are ‘broad brush’ and may be masking strong sub-regional variations (the economic restructuring of the city of Stoke-on-Trent dragging down the much larger and more robust Staffordshire; or the growth of Solihull masking the moribund parts of inner Birmingham).

Then I’d guess (I’m not an economist, statistician, geographer etc) that one should also consider the distortions that might have been introduced by the weird sprawls of the current LEP areas, something that is presumably due as much to regional politics as to actual economic areas. The “Greater Birmingham” LEP, for instance, is a very weird shape and takes in many areas that even an economic geographer might be hard pressed to associate with central Birmingham…