A western union: living standards and devolution in the West of England

This May, voters in the West of England elect a Metro Mayor, with new powers over transport, skills and welfare-to-work policies, as well as the chance to bring economic leadership to their area. The area – comprising Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire – has outperformed most other city regions on a variety of economic indicators.

  • While in many city regions the economy has yet to return to its pre-recession size, the West of England’s GVA per head is now estimated to be 6.9 per cent higher than in 2007.
  • The West of England’s labour market has surpassed expectations too. Its employment rate currently stands at 76.8 per cent, well above both the average across other city regions and its own pre-crisis level.

But the West of England city region faces challenges too:

  • The hourly pay of typical workers in the West of England remains £1 lower in real terms than the high point reached in 2010. That amounts to a still-existing pay squeeze of 7.4 per cent, larger than the city region average of 5.7 per cent.
  • Housing costs place a sizeable drain on incomes. Typical house prices are now nearly 10 times higher than the typical salary, while typical rents are equal to 41 per cent of typical wages.