West Lancashire district

This summary offers a snapshot of some of the most important economic, social and environmental factors in West Lancashire district with links through to the source information. The information has been allocated to one of seven themes: Map of West Lancashire borough

  1. Children and Young People
  2. People and Communities
  3. Economic Development
  4. Community Safety
  5. Environment and Transport
  6. Health and Wellbeing
  7. Older People


West Lancashire is an authority that covers 347 square kilometres, has 15 wards for which Census 2021 profiles are available. These appear as starter pages showing just the population, but around 30 Census topics can be added. From an historic point of view there have been significant changes.   

  1. Children and Young People  

The total fertility rate in 2022 of 1.51 was average for the Lancashire-14 area.

Key stage 4 covers the two years of school education that incorporates GCSEs in maintained schools. A new secondary school GCSE accountability system was implemented in 2016, in which 'Attainment 8' measures achievement in maths and English plus other subjects with less weighting. In 2021/22 the average score was 48.0 in West Lancashire district. This was just above the 47.6 figure for the Lancashire County Council area as a whole. The Department for Education achievement and attainment tables have more information on achievement at other levels. 

For young children and parents the county council's Children and Family Wellbeing Service has a search facility for local centres. The four in the district are the Eavesdale and Skelmersdale Park Children and Family Wellbeing Services and the Burscough and Southway Neighbourhood Centres.

There are 69 schools in West Lancashire, of which 55 are primary and seven secondary. A full list of schools in Lancashire is available. Ofsted inspection reports and the GOV.UK web page on schools performance are useful sources of local information.

The county council's Young People's Service website has an activity and organisations search facility that lists a wide range of options for young people in each of the 12 districts within the county council area.  

The Department for Education achievement and attainment tables have more information on achievement at other levels. 

Business Intelligence and Public Health analysts at Lancashire County Council have produced Child health profiles for districts in Lancashire, including both district and ward elements for West Lancashire, and bringing together key indicators from Fingertips, the public health data collection from the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities (OHID).

  1. People and Communities

The mid-2022 population estimate for the authority was 119,367. There is a Census interactive tool that compares the 2021 results with 2011 for local authorities.

Local authority live births and deaths graphs are available that track changes in births and deaths since the 1980s for each authority in Lancashire. The graph for West Lancashire reveals that over the long-term, the differential between live births and deaths narrowed and deaths had already been exceeding live births for some years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of deaths in each month of 2021, 2022 and 2023 can be seen in the monthly mortality graph slide on the Lancashire Insight Covid-19 intelligence web page.

Graph of live births, deaths and difference between the two in West Lancashire from 1981 onwards. In 2022 there were 1,029 live births and 1,415 deaths

It is estimated that between 2018 and 2043 the population of West Lancashire will increase by 3.8%, the lowest rise in the Lancashire-12 area and well below the England rise of 10.3%. The growth in the number of households in the authority of 5.4% between 2018 and 2043 is the second lowest growth rate in the Lancashire-14 area. It may be that the high value of the land in the district for agricultural purposes, and the consequent very high proportion of green belt land, leaves little room for housing development.

West Lancashire has around 51,300 dwellings, 86% are owner occupied or private rented. The median house prices to earnings in the authority is well above many other Lancashire authorities. 

West Lancashire, in comparison with a number of other Lancashire authorities has a relatively low proportion of its housing stock in the lowest council tax band 'A', but in comparison with the national average it is above the norm. The authority has for a few years recorded low levels of vacant dwellings in comparison to other Lancashire authorities.   

A total of 13.1% of West Lancashire households were in fuel poverty in 2020, which was slightly below the England average of 13.2%. The main factors that determine this are the energy efficiency status  of the property, the cost of energy, and household income.

The 2019 Indices of Deprivation place West Lancashire was the 178th most deprived area out of 317 districts and unitary authorities in England, when measured by the rank of average LSOA rank.

ONS has produced a set of residential-based area classifications using analysis of the 2011 Census. These are for very small statistical areas, but we have identified the most common groups for the electoral wards. Residents in seven of West Lancashire's wards largely belong to the 'Farming Communities' group, while in another three the 'Semi-Detached Suburbia' group is dominant.

  1. Economic Development

Employee numbers in West Lancashire rose substantially in the decade to 2008, and between 2009 and 2016 the authority saw a strong increase in its employment number of 13%. The district also has a high proportion of private-sector jobs.  

In West Lancashire as in most places, the manufacturing sector has shed jobs over the years whilst the service sector has grown to become a far greater source of employee jobs. However there still continues to be a bias towards a larger proportion of employees in the manufacturing sector in Lancashire and West Lancashire than is the national norm and a lower proportion of jobs in the service sector. The manufacturing sub-sector of food products has a strong presence and supports the local agriculture sector.

Our extensive employment records allow us to monitor the changes to employee numbers from 1929 onwards. We have published separate graphs for each of the 14 Lancashire local authorities that reveal changes in total employee numbers and the shift from manufacturing to service sector employment. Methodological changes, and assumptions for missing years, reduce the accuracy of the graphs, but they do give a useful broad indication of changes over time. The graph for West Lancashire is displayed below and reveals the substantial increase in jobs in the authority over the long-term. 

Graph of employee jobs in West Lancashire from 1929 onwards showing relative share between manufacturing, services and other industries

The main service sectors are wholesale, retail and motor, real estate, professional, scientific and technical and health and social work. Employment in the education sector is above average due to Edge Hill University

In 2023 there were 4,570 active enterprises in West Lancashire. Of these 87.4% had fewer than ten employees, but a substantial 475 were in the 'small enterprise' range of 10 to 49 employees. Around fifteen had over 250 employees.   

The most recent companies in West Lancashire to win a King's Award for Enterprise (formerly the Queen's Award) are Chemical Processing Services Ltd. of Wrightington in 2023 and the Skelmersdale firms of Fairbanks Environmental Limited and Aqua Fabrications Ltd in 2016.

Assisted areas are those places where regional aid can be offered to undertakings, typically businesses, under European Union state aid rules. From 2014 to 2020 West Lancashire had three wards with assisted area status. Following the departure of the UK from the European Union, these rules no longer apply, but a Subsidy control bill is currently going through Parliament.

The UK government properties database is a searchable list of all UK government property holdings and land assets. The web page for the North West region lists land and properties by towns including those in Skelmersdale. 

The top grade farming land in West Lancashire means that employment in agriculture in the authority is by far the highest of any in Lancashire. The area is a significant producer of field vegetables and crops under glass/plastic. The farming land allocated to fruit and vegetables production in the authority area represents 94% of the Lancashire total and 71% of the North West total. 

Average earnings of West Lancashire residents were £468 in 2019, which was the fourth best wage in any of the Lancashire-14 authorities. The local agriculture sector and support activities need large amounts of labour for the production, processing and distribution of field crops. 

The survey of personal incomes by HM Revenue and customs broadly includes all individuals whose income is higher than the prevailing personal tax allowance and who are therefore liable to tax. The median results are the middle value that best reflects typical income and they show a result for West Lancashire that is well above the Lancashire-12 and North West averages. 

West Lancashire has strong economic links with areas outside Lancashire and this is reflected in the 2011 census results on commuter flows. More people in West Lancashire district (5,476) commuted to Sefton district than any other local authority. Liverpool was in second place with 3,042 and Wigan was third with 2,483. In comparison only 1,298 commuted to Preston which was the highest figure among the Lancashire authorities. Inward commuting flows reveal large numbers came in from Seton (5,220) and Wigan (4,793). The outward and inward commuting flows between West Lancashire and Sefton were both larger than any other flows between a Lancashire authority and a neighbouring authority in either Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Yorkshire or Cumbria.

Given the various population sizes of Lancashire authorities the number of employment and support allowance claimants in the authority is relatively low. The housing benefit article details the local number of recipients and the effects of the spare room subsidy withdrawal. In comparison to the national average, there is a high percentage of the working age population that is reliant on welfare benefits.

The town centre of Ormskirk is destined to benefit from a mix of funding sources which includes the Future High Streets Fund, channelled through the High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme.

  1. Community Safety

The recorded crime article reveals that West Lancashire has a crime rate that is well below average for the Lancashire-14 area. See the LG Inform Quarterly Report on Crime and Disorder by Local Authority.

For more details on community safety in your neighbourhood, please enter your postcode or ward into the window in the Local area community safety statistics web page.

Alcohol is known to contribute to offending behaviour, particularly violence, anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.  Residents in the authority are significantly worse than the national average, including the number of alcohol-specific hospital admissions by under 18s, according to the LAPE (Local Alcohol Profiles for England)

There is a broad pattern of decline in the numbers of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions in West Lancashire from 135 in 2006 to 81 in 2021.  

  1. Environment and Transport

Transport has a key role to play in realising the economic potential of an area by unlocking key locations, such as the existing and new locations referred to in the economy section.  Using sustainable transport modes can significantly improve employment opportunities and life chances. In urban areas the reliance on the car presents problems of traffic congestion and reduced air quality. Within West Lancashire the M58 motorway offers direct access to the M6 and in to Liverpool. Despite this, even in and around urban areas, the authority has relatively good air quality compared to other parts of the county.

The West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan is the strategic transport document highlights the proposed transport developments in the authority.

The Department for Transport website has an interactive map that lists the traffic flows at hundreds of sites across all of the Lancashire County Council area.

The authority has a substantial number of twelve railway stations, but some are rural stations that are served by only a few trains a day and have a limited number of passengers. Ormskirk is by far the busiest station and is the terminus of a high-density electrified rail service to central Liverpool. Town Green and Aughton Park also form part of the Merseyrail system, whilst the authority's other stations are served by routes operated by Northern.

Maps are available that reveal the various rural-urban definitions across Lancashire down to the very small census output area level.  

The National Biodiversity Network Gateway acts as a “data warehouse” for biodiversity information, which can be quickly and easily accessed to understand the distribution of particular species in the UK. Much of the local data is supplied by the Lancashire Environment Record Network (LERN), which is hosted by Lancashire County Council. An interactive map on this site shows the extent of the Environmental Record Centre coverage, including the LERN area, and when adding a species using the 'Add to Map' control, records of their sightings are displayed.

Green belts have been an enduring element of national planning policy. They check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another; assist in safeguarding the countryside, preserve the character of historic towns and encourage the recycling of derelict and other urban land. West Lancashire has a very large land area classified as green belt

Lancashire County Council supports a various projects in district authorities via a range of grants and funding options.

The household waste reuse, recycling and composting rate for West Lancashire in 2019/20 was 46.7%, which the best in Lancashire.   

Total carbon dioxide emissions in West Lancashire are high in comparison to most other Lancashire authorities, and the rate for tonnes per person is above the national level. Emissions from the industry and commerce sector are relatively high, and those from land-use change are the highest in Lancashire, reflecting the distinctive nature of the area's agricultural base.

The legacy of former mine workings in the area was highlighted in 2015, when the  coal authority published development risk plans and specific risk plans that included a set for West Lancashire district.

  1. Health and Wellbeing

Figures for life expectancy at birth reveal that West Lancashire had male and female averages similar to the national figures. The following graph reveals life expectancy changes in the authority, and for England, by three-year time periods from 1991-93 onwards. 

Life expectancy at birth West Lancashire graph

The West Lancashire Health Profile, published by Public Health England, reveals that the health of people in the area is fairly comparable to the England average.

The 2015 health behaviours summary report (PDF 447 KB) and lifestyle survey findings (PDF 831 KB) for West Lancashire provide further details on lifestyle behaviours such as smoking, drinking, substance use, physical activity, nutrition, excess weight and wellbeing.

In July 2022 Integrated Care Boards replaced the much smaller Clinical Commissioning Groups as clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area, including the majority of the hospital and community NHS services. Together with their associated Integrated Care Partnerships, which includes representatives from the upper tier local authorities responsible for social care and public health, they form Integrated Care Systems (ICS). The single ICS covering the whole of the Lancashire-14 area is the Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS. That web page has a link to a glossary of the terms used and there is a further explanation on a Kings Fund web page

Major local facilities in West Lancashire include Ormskirk and District General Hospital and Wrightington Hospital. The Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust website lists a few other locations in the authority.

The Trauma and Injury Intelligence Group (TIIG) was established to develop an injury surveillance system covering the North West. The Lancashire results include reports for Ormskirk and District General Hospital.

The local government association has produced 'housing, health and wellbeing profiles' for each local authority across the country. The figures go down to the ward level, and the West Lancashire profile has results from the census, the index of multiple deprivation and other data sources.

Public Health England has produced Cardiovascular disease profiles for each of the former clinical commissioning groups in England, in this case NHS West Lancashire CCG, an area which was identical to the local authority. There are separate reports for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

  1. Older People

Large parts of rural West Lancashire are relatively popular with state pensioners but as mentioned earlier, there is not a high proportion of older people in the district as a whole. In comparison with a number of coastal areas in the county, there are few parts of the authority that are particularly popular with people of retirement age. 

Attendance Allowance provides financial help to people aged 65 or over who are physically or mentally disabled. The caseload in August 2023 was 3,170.

Life expectancy as mentioned earlier is increasing but there is no guarantee that the extra years of life will necessarily equate to extra years of healthy life expectancy. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that "extra" years of life expectancy should necessarily lead to additional years with ill health or disability. More suitable community services to enable independent living and more effective practice of preventive lifestyles and medicine has the potential to lengthen disability-free life expectancy, particularly in the case of the prevention and treatment of non-fatal but disabling diseases.

The Lancashire Care Homes Association is an organisation that represents care providers across the broader Lancashire area. The website lists a large number of care and nursing homes, along with domiciliary care agencies in the area. The details are listed by major urban localities across the county.   

It has been well documented over recent years that people are living longer and that the older age-groups will record some dramatic increases over future years, with associated financial implications and demand for health and social care services. By 2043, the population aged 65 or over in West Lancashire is projected to increase to 31,877, four years after a peak of 32,303 in 2039.

Page updated 8 May 2024