Declining unemployment, better skills and the establishment of new businesses have been the main driving factors behind improvements to living standards in the UK’s cities since the financial crisis of 2007/08. So concludes Demos and PwC, who have published the Good Growth for Cities 2019 index that marries statistical data with the views of the public and businesses to measure the economic performance of places around the UK on matters such as employment, income and health.
Brexit is not considered to have affected the index because the report captures data up to the end of 2018.
Most of the cities on which the study is concentrated have experienced growth performance over the last ten years, although interestingly the pattern of growth has not been dependent on location. The best performing cities were Oxford, Reading, Southampton, Bristol, Milton Keynes, Swindon, Cambridge and Leicester. Showing negative growth, although still showing improvement over the ten years, were Sunderland, Doncaster, Wakefield & Castleford, Swansea and Middlesborough.
The report suggests that new strategies will need to be identified in order to tackle economic, technological and political disruption. Most important to economic success are the things that matter most to the public, and the main constraints identified in relation to the UK’s cities, particularly London, were whether housing was affordable and how long it took to get to work. The issues surrounding housing affordability, home ownership and rising commuting times have been branded ‘the price of success’.
In the case of housing, falling rates of home ownership due to housing affordability are a good indicator of the challenges faced by cities.
The house price to earnings ratio was above average in most regions, with the exception of the West of England and the combined authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Only the City of Liverpool, Tees Valley and North of Tyne scored above average in terms of transport.
The city with the highest scoring improvement over the ten years was the City of Liverpool. This was largely due to new start-up businesses, distribution of income and unemployment rates, compared to the UK average. Compared to the average city, the findings showed improved housing affordability in both 16-24 and 25-64 age groups and a fall in carbon emissions. However, weaker growth was recorded in work-life balance and income levels.
The report concluded that increasing housing and transport investment were key to sustaining continuous improvement, in particular ‘developing community resilience’, addressed by a number of factors including better and sustainable housing affordability and infrastructure investment, that would close the ‘opportunity gap’ that currently exists between places.
Read the full report here.