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Government / Local politics

What big challenges is West Midlands mayor Andy Street facing?

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Europe’s cities.

The Centre for Cities, as regular readers will know, recently launched its new metro mayor data dashboards. These, if you’ve not had the pleasure, enable you to sort through some of the data on each of the newly en-mayor-ed city regions, and see how they compare to the national average. That, in turn, should give some insight into the kind of things clogging up the in-trays of the newly elected mayors.

So – let’s start with the big one. What kind of problems will be facing Andy Street in the West Midlands?

Well, for one thing, the region is facing a bit of a skills gap. The proportion of the population with no qualifications has fallen in recent years (it was as high as 20.7 per cent in 2001); but it’s still at 15.5 per cent, nearly twice the national average (8.3 per cent).

The region’s schools are performing below the national average, too. (Progress 8 is a way of measuring pupil progress in any individual school; the details don’t matter too much for our purposes.)

On the upside, it has significantly more apprenticeships than the national average – a result of the region’s industrial heritage, one assumes.

You can see that in its unusually high goods export numbers, too:

(Services don’t look so hot.)

The region’s earnings are rising steadily, but still lower than the national average:

The West Midlands has significant unemployment problems, too:

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Okay, let’s get onto the good stuff. One big area of responsibility for the new mayors will be public transport. In the West Midlands, one of Britain’s most car-based areas, there’s clearly a huge job to do on that score.

For one thing, the number of bus journeys made in the conurbation has basically been in free fall:

Click to expand.

So, better bus franchising should be high on the agenda.

More depressing, in some ways, is that the number of light rail journeys has basically flatlined.

Click to expand.

Anecdotally, they started climbing last year after the Midlands Metro was finally extended into Birmingham city centre.

The region’s air pollution is slightly higher than the national average:

Click to expand.

Which isn’t too bad, for an industrial area – but probably does suggest that getting people out of their cars might help.

So, to sum up: more skills, more trams, better buses and better schools please, Andy. Now get to work.

You can explore the data yourself here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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