COVENTRY city centre is in serious decline and the city’s economy remains much weaker than the national average despite rises in employment, latest data reveals.
The figures, contained in the Coventry City Council’s report of its own performance for 2014/15, show a 3.6 per cent decline in city centre footfall, and a huge fall of 9.4 per cent at night.
There is better news elsewhere in the report which measures how the council is performing against its own targets – with improvements made in 32 of 58 categories.
The council’s Labour leaders say its major challenges – including the city centre, child poverty, high domestic violence and teenage pregnancy rates, and dramatic health inequalities and life expectancy between the north and south of the city – come amid a backdrop of government funding cuts, with £15milllion removed from the city in 2014/5 alone.
Council leaders insist the report shows the city is “on the right road to being a top ten city”.
They point to the council offices moving to the Friargate office development, the new ring road junction 6, and new restaurants coming to Broadgate as measures designed to further kickstart the economy.
Growing the economy, the report argues, and the council retaining business rates to help stimulate more jobs, is the path to prosperity.
It adds: “The council believes that economic prosperity will create more resources which can then be redistributed more equally.”
But the city’s economy on the report’s latest figures (for 2013) generates £20,513 for each citizen in goods and services.
That is slightly up from the previous year but far below Warwickshire’s £23,604 and England’s £24,091.
The 3.6 per cent drop in city centre visitor footfall is more than three times the national average.
The council claims the dire 9.4 per cent drop in city centre nightlife might partly be explained by changing habits among students which might not have been captured by security cameras.
The number of empty shops increased from 57 to 63.
More tourists are coming to the city, but fewer are staying for the night.
The report points to other achievements including reduced crime, and more than 80 per cent of pupils attending a primary school rated good or outstanding by Ofsted – double the figure from two years previously.
But challenges remain with secondary schools. The report states: “School performance has continued to fall with two more schools judged as requiring improvement.”
Child protection is rated “inadequate” by Ofsted, and the number of children in care remains high.
Coun Lucas said: “As you walk around our city and talk to people you can see things are getting better and we want that to continue.
“At the moment it’s a bit of a tale of two cities – with some areas showing massive improvement and others still giving us concern.
“There are big challenges ahead, but this city has faced a few of those in its long and proud history and we’re looking forward to the next 10 years with confidence.”
Child poverty in Coventry is set for the biggest rise in a generation – to 17,000 children, equating to one in three – says Labour children’s cabinet member councillor Ed Ruane.
He says continuing government austerity and benefits cuts including to working families’ tax credits will worsen the problem, unless there is positive government action.
The full report is on the council’s website at www.coventry.gov.uk