Oxford has topped the Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities Index, which ranks 50 of the UK’s largest cities based not just on economic growth but on 12 key economic factors, including jobs, health, income and skills, as well as work-life balance, house affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.
The report – which found provincial cities are set for the strongest economic growth, as the new analysis shows the sectors most badly affected by the pandemic are showing signs of sharper recoveries than what was originally expected – ranked Swindon third, Reading fourth, and Bristol ninth.
Oxford scored well for income, health, skills and safety and above average for jobs availability and environment. It scored negatively for housing to wages ratio, access to public transport, income distribution, and high street and shops. But an overall score of +0.65 saw the city top the leaderboard.
With a rating of +0.6, Swindon scored well for its above average jobs availability, transport, and safety. However, it scored below average on work-life balance, new business launches, skills, income distribution, and the quality of its high street and shops.
Reading, with an overall rating of + 0.51, scored well for income, health and skills but well below average for income distribution. Bristol, with a rating of +0.43, excelled in skills and performed well in most areas except house price-to-earnings, and transport.
Cities in the south of England dominated the rank, with the worst performers in the north.
Karen Finlayson, regional lead for government and health industries at PwC, said: “Once again, Southern cities dominate this year’s Good Growth Index.
“It’s clear that regional inequality remains a very clear reality that can’t be ignored. The Government’s Levelling Up White Paper was a welcome acknowledgment of what is a long-term and incredibly complex problem.
“Every individual city will face its own unique set of challenges and priorities that will need to be addressed through innovative, imaginative and tailored solutions.
“The provincial cities that are currently performing strongly will now have a different set of needs than larger metropolitan cities, some of which have experienced a period of poor growth.
“The growth we’re seeing in these areas, combined with changing priorities among the public, presents us with a golden chance for a big reset; this is a generational opportunity to accelerate the levelling up agenda.
“We must capitalise on the growth we’re seeing outside of our larger cities, which is driven in part by an increased focus on wellbeing and fairness, but there is only a small window to act, otherwise we risk drifting back to the status quo.”
And Justin Martin, devolved and local government lead for PwC, said: “We’re emerging from the pandemic with a new set of priorities, largely focused around fairness, the environment and work-life balance. It’s likely that the way we have lived over the past two years has led to people reflecting on what they value the most.
“This appears to be having a significant impact on the fortunes of different places, with the cities that perform well not only having strong local authorities but also being characterised by strong environmental and safety credentials.
“While the vision set out in the Levelling Up White Paper centred primarily around geographic inequality, it did recognise that there are multiple societal disparities which affect people and could hinder the economic recovery. We know from our research that women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds are the most likely to have been negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic.
“Central government, local government and businesses all have a role to play in developing localised plans to address not only the regional inequalities but the societal gaps that also exist within their cities, towns and communities.”