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Manchester Improve Its Economy


Local economic partnerships and councils are responsible for developing and implementing strategies to help their regions’ economies to grow.

To do this, they need access to granular business data to make decisions and effect improvements.

This case study looks at how the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) used Red Flag Alert to better use data during the pandemic.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority is a city-region home to more than 2.8 million people and has an economy bigger than the whole of Wales.

A fundamental part of the GMCA is its Business Growth Hub. This is the local enterprise partnership (LEP) for Greater Manchester. It supports local businesses through a broad range of services and helps stimulate the region’s economy.

It has played a crucial role during the Covid-19 pandemic by helping businesses improve, reprioritise and stay afloat.

GMCA’s Challenge

Greater Manchester has a long history of using evidence to support its policy. However, this tradition of data-driven strategies has previously met some stumbling blocks.

For example, in 2008 the authority commissioned a report on the region's economy that forecast the area’s economic development over the next decade. However, the report was published just as the 2008 financial crisis hit, meaning it became outdated almost immediately.

The authority realised it needed real-time data that reflects circumstances as they change.

Alongside this, they needed access to predictive data that can highlight future issues.

Finally, the inclusion of in-depth, granular data could help provide a detailed picture of the economy.


Before working together, Red Flag Alert and the Great Manchester Growth Hub (GMGH) already had a shared interest in data-driven solutions.

The GMGH is a founding member of RFA’s Living Lab. This is a public sector user group that meets to discuss data challenges. These issues are then addressed through improved RFA offerings.

One example of an innovation coming out of this group is Red Flag Alert’s new spatial and sectoral views. This allowed the GMCA to map the different types of businesses in their area alongside valuable economic data on each one. This visualisation includes each company’s health check rating.

This makes it easier to spot businesses likely to fail and see trends across sectors or areas.

In 2020 the GMGH integrated Red Flag Alert’s API into their system, providing the organisation with direct access to our data.


GMGH’s growth advisors can access Red Flag Alert through their mobile devices. This allows them to see local data while visiting high streets, industrial parks and other economically important areas. They can understand the area’s makeup in great detail and quickly see the types of businesses in operation.

Advisors can quickly see which businesses have the potential for growth and which ones are struggling while they are in the area.

Red Flag Alert’s data also provides context for a growth advisor’s conversations. If a business owner is interested in apprentices or export markets, for example, the growth advisor will have more information on their company instantly available to them. This provides them with a better understanding to make a decision.

Red Flag Alert’s data has been used to support the Greater Manchester Economic Recovery Group (ERG) in addressing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For example, the ERG uses Red Flag Alert’s data to inform its situation reports on the pandemic’s impact on businesses.

GMGH has also used Red Flag Alert’s data in its Covid-19 study. This study used the data to build a picture of the economy since the start of the pandemic, highlighting economic risks and opportunities.

Next Steps

Greater Manchester consists of ten borough councils. The city’s Economic Recovery Group continues to work with Red Flag Alert’s experts to understand the data needs of the ten boroughs.

These local boroughs are interested in sectoral data and how the furlough scheme has been accessed in their area.

Breaking the data down this way helps the boroughs see what is needed at their level.

For example, advanced manufacturing may not present growth opportunities at the combined authority level. However, one borough may analyse its sectoral data and see there is a thriving cluster of businesses in their area worth supporting.

Let Red Flag Alert Support Your Economy

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority is a clear example of how access to data can change outcomes for local economies.

Red Flag Alert offers a specialised package of decision-making resources to help local authorities identify areas with the highest possibility for providing localised economic growth.

For a free consultation on how Red Flag Alert can help you power your local recovery strategy, please contact Nicola Headlam at or on 0330 460 9877

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