On Thursday 13th May the Legatum Institute is publishing a brand-new UK Prosperity Index. It uses 256 indicators based on the latest available data (predominantly from before Covid-19 struck) to provide a comprehensive assessment of institutional, economic, and social wellbeing across the country’s 379 local authorities. The Index will be used to track the Government’s ‘levelling-up agenda’ and hold decision-makers to account for improving the prosperity of all regions of the UK.
The Index reveals that the East of England is the 3rd most prosperous region of the UK. The quality of local infrastructure, education, and the natural environment have all improved over the last decade, and the region is home to the ‘Commuter Belt’ which contains some of the most prosperous areas in the country, such as St Albans. However, levels of prosperity in the region have been deteriorating in recent years, with deteriorations in safety and security, health, and the conditions for businesses.
The Index shows that the East of England’s key strengths are:
- The highest levels of social capital in the UK: there is little loneliness and families are strong, with the region boasting the second lowest proportion of lone parent families in the country at just 19%.
- Strong governance: the region has the highest levels of government effectiveness in the UK, with local authorities that are very competent at managing housing benefits, council tax, and planning appeals.
- A relatively strong economy: the region’s ‘Commuter Belt’ in particular has a high number of high-tech businesses, a diverse workforce, and high levels of productivity.
- Some of the best living conditions in the country: the poverty rate of 18% is the third lowest in the UK.
However, the Index also reveals that there are opportunities for the East of England to ‘level-up’, including:
- Addressing the deteriorating safety and security of local communities: urban areas such as Cambridge, Ipswich, and Watford have the highest theft rates in the country.
- Improving conditions for enterprise across the region: the region as a whole performs poorly due to factors such as high property costs, low awareness of local enterprise partnerships, and strong views that legislation and tax compliance are major barriers to doing business.
- Improving the strength of the economy in coastal towns: these areas suffer from low productivity and competitiveness as well as higher rates of unemployment.
- Continuing to strengthen education: outside the ‘Commuter Belt’ most areas in the region are struggling with education, and primary attendance and attainment in areas like Peterborough and Great Yarmouth are among the lowest in the country.
Professor Matthew Goodwin, Director of the Legatum Institute’s Centre for UK Prosperity, said: “The UK Prosperity Index is the most ambitious assessment of prosperity across the country to date. With detailed data on all boroughs and council areas, it is a transformational tool that can help policy makers and influencers target their interventions more effectively on the journey towards greater prosperity. The Index will be updated annually, allowing citizens, businesses, local authorities, regions, and national government to track progress over time and hold decision-makers to account.
“The holistic and rigorous approach we have taken has allowed us to identify issues that have previously been missed in the discussion about how to level-up the country. It highlights that while the East of England performs well on the safety and security of local communities, levels of social capital, and living conditions, we also need to invest in areas such as education and the conditions for local businesses if we are to see all citizens, neighbourhoods, and communities in the region reach their full potential. We hope our Index will help leaders across the East of England set their agendas and implement strategies that will unlock real prosperity.”
At a local authority level, the Index shows that:
- St Albans is the most prosperous council in the region and 8th in the country. Residents are healthy and have access to the necessary services to maintain good health, and the number of children in need or on child protection plans is low. St Albans benefits from strong societal ties among the community, and a thriving economy with local regulation that enables businesses to respond to the changing needs of society.
- Uttlesford ranks 1st in the country for social capital. There is a strong sense of community, with citizens more willing to participate in local social activities such as volunteering and sports clubs than their peers across the rest of the UK, and numbers of underage pregnancies are lower than most other councils in the country.