Today 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 Wales is the 9th most prosperous region of the UK, although since 2018 prosperity has been in decline. While Wales has strengths in safety and security, governance, and the natural environment, compared to the rest of the UK, Wales performs poorly in terms of living conditions, infrastructure, and conditions for enterprise.
The Index shows that Wales’ key strengths are:
- Safe and secure local communities: there are low rates of crime, and the homicide rate is 7 per 100,000 population, compared to the UK average of 11.
- The quality of local governance: this has improved over the last decade and Wales boasts strong local democracy, high local election voter turnout, and large numbers of people who believe that voting makes a difference.
- A relatively strong education system: levels of primary attendance and attainment are higher than the UK average.
- A relatively high quality natural environment: there are low emissions and little air pollution, and there has been a substantial reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentration over the last decade.
However, the Index also reveals that there are opportunities for Wales to ‘level-up’, including:
- Addressing the deterioration in social capital: there are large numbers of looked after children and underage pregnancies.
- Improving the investment environment: businesses in Wales suffer from a low capital supply, and 31% of projects are delayed due to lack of financing, the highest rate in the UK. The value of loans provided to SMEs by major banks per head of population is much lower in the Welsh Valleys, at £2,714, than in rural Wales, at £9,516.
- Continuing to improve the quality of infrastructure: average internet download speeds are below the UK average. Far more properties in rural Wales lack access to the gas network than in the Welsh Valleys, with over 50% of properties in Ceredigion, Powys, Gwynedd, and the Isle of Anglesey lacking connection to these networks.
- Improving living conditions: these are currently the weakest in the UK, and more than 1 in 20 households experience deep poverty, the highest proportion of any region outside London.
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 Wales performs well on the safety and security of communities and governance, we also need to invest in areas such as living conditions and the business environment, as well as building inclusive and resilient communities, if we are to see all citizens reach their full potential. We hope our Index will help leaders across Wales set their agendas and implement strategies that will unlock real prosperity.”