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State of the Borough (Development)



The State of the Borough paints a picture of Wirral using a range of statistics. Data is organised into themes, which can be explored via the navigation panel in the above link in an interactive way. View our summary report below.


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Last reviewed: June 2022

Next review: September 2022

Narrative Summary

Population and Demographics

The population of Wirral is 324,336, of whom, 17.4% are aged under 15, 60.6% are aged 15-64 and 22.0% are aged 65+. This is an older population than the England average (18.5%). The population is projected to increase by 4.1% between 2018 and 2043. The largest increases are projected to be within the older age groups, with the 65+ age group estimated to increase by 33.3% between 2018 and 2043. According to the 2011 Census, 3.0% of residents were from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, far less than the 20% England average. Polish is the most frequently spoken non-English language - 0.3% of the population. Data on ethnicity from the 2021 Census is not yet available.

Creating opportunities to get the best health outcomes from economic policy and regeneration programmes

The largest business sectors in Wirral (in terms of the number of businesses) are those in the professional, scientific and technical (1,485), retail (1,460) and construction (1,155) sectors. The sectors with the highest number of employees are health (22,750), retail (11,600) and education (9,700). Recent figures show that new businesses increased slightly from 1,315 in 2019 to 1,425 in 2020, whilst the number of businesses that ceased also rose slightly from 1,090 in 2019 to 1,105 in 2020. The Gross Value Added (GVA) in the borough over the last ten years (2008-2018) has increased by 1.02%, this is higher than the North West and England averages over the same period (0.02% and 0.47% respectively).

The local employment rate increased in Wirral compared to the previous year (70.7% in December 2021 compared to 70.4% in December 2020). Employment levels, however, have still not returned to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. In June 2019, for example, employment rates were 76.9%. Of those currently in employment, 62% are working full time (30+ hours a week), with 38% working part time (less than 30 hours a week). Modelled unemployment figures for December 2021 show that the proportion of people unemployed is 3.7% of the working age population. Claimant counts of residents of working age have slowly decreased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with rates as of May 2022 roughly reflecting the modelled unemployment figure at 3.9%. This compares to a high of 6.8% in May 2020. Claimant counts vary significantly by constituency. In Birkenhead constituency, the proportion of residents of working age claiming benefits is 5.9% compared to 1.9% in Wirral South. Whilst 17,291 people commute in to Wirral for work (with Cheshire West and Chester being the most popular source), 44,332 commute out of the borough for work (Liverpool being the most popular destination). 

Strengthening health and care action to address differences in health outcomes

Life expectancy in the borough is lower than the national average for both males and females; 77.8 years for males, 81.6 years in females in 2018-20. There are also stark inequalities between life expectancy within Wirral, with a gap of 8.5 years in life expectancy in females between the 20% most deprived areas and 20% least deprived areas. For males, this figure is 9.7 years.

Adults are more likely to be overweight or obese in Wirral when compared to the England average (71.8% compared to 63.5% in 2020/21), with this trend continuing to increase locally. Activity levels across the borough have decreased in recent years, with only 59.6% of residents reporting that they do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week (the recommendation for adults) in 2020/21. This includes walking, cycling, dance, fitness and other sporting activities. Over a quarter (27.6%) of all residents are inactive - i.e. do fewer than 30 minutes of exercise a week. Pregnant women smoking at the time of delivery, continues to decrease, having fallen from 14.6% to 12.1% in 10 years. This is still higher than the North West and England average (11.0% and 9.6% respectively). 

The trend in successful completion of drug and alcohol treatments have increased in recent years, with the exception of opiate treatment. Non-opiate drug treatment has a significantly higher successful completion rate in Wirral (47.7%) compared to the North West (36.5%) and England (33.0%). Alcohol treatment also has a significantly higher successful completion rate in Wirral (47.4%) compared to the North West (41.1%) and England (35.3%).

Ensuring the best start in life for all children and young people

In recent years, local data on infant mortality rates showed a reduction, and is currently lower than the North West and England average in 2018-20. Similarly, the proportion of low birth weight babies has also shown a decrease, with 6.6% of babies born in Wirral of a low birth weight, compared with 6.9% in both the North West and England in 2020. The National Childhood Measurement Programme (NCMP) data show that 23.1% of reception aged children (4 to 5 years) were overweight or obese, followed by 34.3% of children in Year 6. These are lower than the North West and England average. 

Educational attainment (using average Attainment 8 scores at GCSE level) in Wirral shows that children eligible for free school meals (FSM) perform worse (38.5) than those not eligible (55.6), although the gap has narrowed in recent years. The same pattern is also apparent for children with Special Education Needs (SEN), with non-SEN pupils (55.5) outperforming pupils with SEN support (40.5) in Wirral on average Attainment 8 scores. 

Immunisations for children aged between 2 and 5 years old were higher than the North West and England average for all vaccinations: DTaP (diptheria, tetanus and pertussis), IPV (innactivated polio vaccine), Hib (haemophilus influenza B) - otherwise known as the 6-in-1 vaccine, Meningitis C, Hib booster, PCV (pneumococcal vaccine) and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) at 2 and 5 years old. However, in recent years there has been a trend of decreasing uptake both locally and nationally. First and second doses of HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccinations in females aged 12 to 13, and 13 to 14, were significantly affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, but are now beginning to recover to pre-pandemic levels, with first dose now above the North West and England average at 89.0% coverage.

In 2020/21 both measures of child poverty (absolute and relative low income) have shown a decrease in Wirral compared to the previous year. There are large inequalities in child poverty by ward, however, with over 1 in 5 (22.2%) children in Birkenhead and Tranmere living in absolute low income in 2020/21, compared to only 1 in 20 children (4.3%) in Clatterbridge. The Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI, 2019) showed that 36.0% of children live in the 20% most deprived areas in England, primarily on the East side of the borough in Birkenhead and Wallasey constituency.

Creating healthy places for people to live that protect health and promote a good standard of living

Almost 1 in 7 households in Wirral were estimated to live in fuel poverty in 2020, with large inequalities between wards - over 1 in 4 households in Bidston and St James ward (25.2%) and 1 in 12 in Heswall ward (8.3%). The 2011 Census showed that 14.7% of people aged 65+ lived alone. Data from 2011 also showed that almost a third of all households were either owned via a mortgage or loan (33.0%), owned outright (32.1%), or were privately rented (15.2%). The housing affordability ratio (how much greater house prices are compared to wages) has increased in recent years and now stands at 6.51 for Wirral in 2021. This is lower than the England housing affordability ratio of 7.96. The average net income of households in Wirral was £30,337 in 2018, compared to £34,875 in England. 

The Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD, 2019) show that 114,900 of the Wirral population (35.6%) lived in the 20% most deprived areas in England.

A PDF version of this summary is also available