Preston crowned most-improved city for economic growth

Preston has topped a list of the most-improved cities in the UK for good economic growth.

The Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities 2018 index sees the Lancashire city at number one in the most improved city rankings since last year’s index, with other big improvers including Middlesbrough and Stockton.

Oxford and Reading continue to lead the pack of highest-ranking UK cities for good growth, reflecting improvements particularly in income levels in the latest period.

However, Southampton is gaining ground and beginning to close the gap between the top two cities and the rest of the index because of an increase in the number of new business start-ups in Southampton compared to last year’s report.

‘We are really pleased to see the results of this report highlight the great progress we have made, and are still making in Preston.

‘This success is based on practical policies to build wealth for the whole community collaboratively with a number of partners,’ said Preston City Council leader, Cllr Matthew Brown.

‘Employment, health, income and skills are important factors for economic success and wellbeing and we are proud to receive national recognition for the improvement in these areas that has been made in the city in the last 12 months.

‘There is still much work to be done, but we are up to the challenge and continue to invest in a future to benefit everyone,’ added Cllr Brown.

The annual index measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities, local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and the nine combined authorities, against 10 indicators based on the views of the public as to what is key to economic success and wellbeing.

These include employment, health, income and skills – the most important factors, as judged by the public – while housing affordability, commuting times, environmental factors and income inequality are also included, as is the number of new business starts.

The research also shows that English combined authorities have made improvements in each area compared to last year’s report.

Greater Manchester has experienced the largest improvement amongst the Combined Authorities as a result of an increase in the number of new business start-ups per head.

However, the West of England extends its lead at the top of the index rankings for combined authorities, driven by increasing skills amongst both the 16-24 and 25-64-year old populations.

‘Almost all UK cities have seen improved good growth scores in recent years, driven primarily by cyclical falls in unemployment rates that have now rippled out from the South East of England to regions like the North East that were previously lagging behind,’ said PwC’s chief economist, John Hawksworth.

‘But the more interesting perspective is provided when we look at the whole decade from 2005-7 to 2015-17, which covers a full economic cycle and therefore allows us to identify deeper structural trends.

‘The good news here is that successive cohorts of young workers have higher average skill levels, which is pushing up index scores together with rising rates of new business creation in most cities,’ added Mr Hawksworth.

‘But the flip side of this success has been worsening housing affordability and consequent falls in home ownership rates precisely for those young people who have invested in acquiring new skills. As they are pushed further from city centres to afford a place to buy or even rent, average commuting times have also risen. Having largely recovered from the financial crisis, addressing the housing and infrastructure supply constraints that drive these negative trends will be key challenges for the next decade for both central and local government, looking beyond the immediate issues around Brexit,’ he added.

The Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities Index 2018 is available here.

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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