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Which cities top the ‘good growth’ index?

Oxford and Reading have come top in a survey measuring ‘good growth’ in the UK for the second year running.

Published today, the Demos/PwC Good Growth for Cities index, measures the performance of the 42 of the UK’s largest cities, along with local enterprise partnerships and combined authorities against a series of 10 indicators around economic success and wellbeing to create an aggregate score.

The indicators include employment, health and skills, along with other issues such as commuting times, income inequality and housing affordability.

The index shows all 42 UK cities have improved their scores since last year’s report, with Oxford and Reading in the top two slots for the second year running, with index scores of 1.02 and 0.97 respectively.

The report states both cities have performed strongly on measures of new business and health, with Reading achieving the highest health score in the index.

Birmingham was judged to be the most improved city, having increased its index score by 0.19 over the last 12 months.

The study’s analysis of the English combined authorities shows a strong performance in metro mayor cities.

Three of the six newly-elected mayors were elected into regions containing cities in the top 10 improvers – Birmingham, Middlesbrough and Liverpool.

And while the report concludes the election of mayors itself had no direct bearing on the index scores, the devolution process has had a ‘positive effect’ on local performance.

The report also examined the government’s 12 ‘opportunity areas’ and found they did not score well against the measures of skills and new business start ups.

According to the report, 10 of the 12 areas performed below the average city score on both of these measures, although Doncaster has performed slightly better recently on new business starts and Norwich is slightly above the UK city average for skills.

But the report also warns that some of the economic growth enjoyed by UK cities has come at a price.

According to the study, there has been a fall across the board in housing affordability, owner occupation rates and work-life balance, while average commuter times have increased.

‘If cities are to sustain the strong performance of recent years, this puts a priority on delivering place-based growth which is inclusive and addresses key supply side constraints particularly infrastructure,’ said PwC’s government and public services partner, Jonathan House.

‘Delivering good growth cannot be achieved by any one person working alone but goes hand-in-hand with place based transformation, where local government, central government and the private sector act together and work collaboratively to deliver outcomes and where place based leaders facilitate local economic growth, prosperity and well-being.’

PwC’s head of regions, Paul Terrington, added that some areas in the north and the Midlands, which had ‘lagged behind’ in the recovery from the financial crisis are now ‘showing clear improvements’.

‘The economic recovery is now spreading across the country, rather than being focused on London and the South East,’ he added.

‘However, we are also seeing the price of prosperity in terms of growing pressures on scarce resources of housing, transport and skills,’ added Mr Terrington.

‘If UK cities are to sustain the relatively strong performance of recent years as we move through Brexit and beyond, it will be critical to address these challenges as part of cities’ growth strategies, rather than trying to fix the problems later when they become serious constraints on growth.’

  • Read the report here

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