Published on 30 September 2020
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Townscapes: West Midlands


Benjamin Goodair, Research Assistant, Bennett Institute for Public Policy
Professor Michael Kenny, Director, Bennett Institute for Public Policy


September 2020

About this report

This is the sixth in a series of papers analysing the fortunes of towns across Britain. The analysis draws upon data relating to public service provision, economic outcomes and demographic changes.

This report examines the welfare of towns in the West Midlands.

Key Findings

  • Most towns in the West Midlands are working towns, including those surrounding the major cities of the region which, in other parts of Britain, often function as commuter towns.
  • There are hardly any exceptionally deprived and exceptionally affluent towns in the West Midlands.
  • A cluster of towns with the most declining economies are rural and have relatively small populations.
  • Overall, West Midland towns have a slightly lower average number of public services within them, compared to other regions.
  • All towns in the West Midlands have had significant increases in the number of people claiming income support since the economic effects of COVID-19 have taken hold.

About Townscapes

The declining economic fortunes of many towns, and the chasm that divides the experiences and outlooks of many of their inhabitants from the metropolitan centres where wealth and power have become concentrated, are issues of growing interest in political life and public policy.

In the UK, the preponderance of support for Brexit among town-dwellers, and the countervailing values of many young urbanites, has sparked a deep debate about how and why towns are locked out of the circuits of growth in the modern economy, and how the inequalities associated with economic geography can be more effectively tackled.

Our Townscapes project offers a deeper analysis of how towns are faring across the regions of Britain and elsewhere. It aims to step away from the generalisations and dogmas that infuse much of the contemporary policy debate and offer instead a more finely grained picture of how different towns relate to their wider regions and nations, as well as to their nearest cities. It showcases the merits of a more granular and regionally rooted perspective for our understanding of geographical inequalities and the kinds of policy needed to address them.


Professor Michael Kenny

Inaugural Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy

Professor Kenny is the Inaugural  Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. Biography Before he arrived in Cambridge, Michael held positions at: Queen’s University, Belfast; the University of Sheffield,...

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