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The fact that many local economic performance 'league tables' place Hull close to the bottom (or high up for deprivation) is a source of frustration to local stakeholders.

To assess the validity of these league tables, Dr Michael Nolan, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Hull University Business School, has been carrying out a study looking at the role of the city’s boundaries and whether they contribute to poor economic league table performance.

The study considers alternative definitions of spatial unit, seeking evidence on whether league table orderings for local areas are robust.

The report examines the 2010 English Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), as values are available for all 32,482 Lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England – covering local variations in income, employment, health, education, housing and crime.

The study demonstrates how the IMD ‘league tables’ look for the case of two existing types of spatial unit – the Local Authority area and the Travel-To-Work Area (TTWA). Comparisons are made for other places centred on urban concentrations.

Hull’s positions in LA and TTWA IMD league tables are very different, with more favourable results in the latter. This is chiefly because the Hull LA area is much more tightly drawn, whereas the Hull TTWA is far wider.

Although limited in scale and scope, the study concludes that league tables can be made to look rather different when the definition of spatial units is altered. In particular, the league position of the area centred on Hull becomes much more similar to the respective positions of other areas centred on urban concentrations elsewhere in the Yorkshire and Humber Region, and other parts of northern England.

Administrative LA areas and functional TTWAs each serve a useful purpose. However, for local stakeholders, the practical reality of the local area is very likely to take in more than a tightly defined LA area. It is worth considering comparisons which are not confined to TTWAs (since these may be of very different sizes), and the study – co-authored by Dr Steve Trotter (Hull University Business School) and Dr Mike Reynolds (Bradford University), and recently published in the journal Local Economy – demonstrates that a concentric approach offers some interesting possibilities.

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