UK’s cities ‘outperforming’ pre-financial crisis peak

The latest 2016 Good Growth for Cities index has shown that the majority of the UK’s cities are now outperforming their pre-financial crisis peak.

Produced by PwC and the Demos think-tank, the study found that two-thirds of the country’s cities have improved their rankings on the index, surpassing the pre-financial crisis peak of 2006-08.

However, some cities are experiencing pressures on housing affordability, transportation and work-life balance, with the report warning that as the process to leave the EU continues, cities need to pay attention to the potential impact on the housing market, employment and income levels.

Now in its fifth year, the index factors in jobs, health, income and skills, work-life balance, house-affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality and pollution, as well as business start-ups, as seen through the eyes of the public.

Oxford, Reading, Edinburgh, Southampton and Bristol were recorded as the highest ranking cities, with Doncaster, Wakefield & Castleford, Swansea, Sunderland, and Middlesbrough & Stockton published as the lowest ranking.

The key finding showed that a substantial gap has also opened up between Oxford and Reading and the rest of the field, reflecting their continued improvement in jobs, income, skills and new businesses.

John Hawksworth, PwC chief economist, said: “All the elements of our Good Growth index could be impacted by Brexit to some degree, although housing, jobs and income may see the largest effects.

“Starting up new businesses, for example, could suffer as a result of increased economic uncertainty. On the other hand, changing trade relations and regulations after Brexit, the shock to the status quo, and the potential opening up of new markets outside the EU could create opportunities for new entrants.

“Similarly, investment in transport infrastructure could be hit by reductions in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but the Chancellor may seek to offset this through greater public investment in transport in the Autumn Statement.

“Collectively, all these factors serve to emphasise the uncertainty surrounding the effect of Brexit. For policymakers across UK cities and regions it is therefore important to understand these risks and the local impact they may have. And, even more than usual, it is important that businesses are agile, and have contingency plans in place for both mitigating the risks and seizing the opportunities that Brexit may create.”