Good Growth for Cities 2016

Our annual index of economic wellbeing in UK cities



In the wake of the EU referendum result and its potential implications for the economy, it is no surprise that the government is placing renewed focus on driving growth, with an emphasis on ensuring that no cities or regions should be left behind.

But a city’s vision for growth must extend beyond using Gross Value Added (GVA) as a measure of local economic success. The debate on local economic development needs to recognise the total impact that new policies and interventions can have in a place.
Importantly, places need to see success through the lens of what the public wants and needs, in both an economic and social sense.

Now in its fifth year, the PwC-Demos Good Growth for Cities index measures economic wellbeing as seen through the eyes of the public.

What kind of growth do people want?
Which cities perform best in the Good Growth Index?

Key findings

Oxford and Reading remain at the top of the index:  A substantial gap has also opened up between these two cities and the rest, reflecting their continued improvement in jobs, income, skills and new businesses.

Improved performance across the board: Across the UK, the index has moved back above previous peaks for the first time since the financial crisis. Virtually all cities have seen an improvement in score since last year.

Doncaster and Wakefield are among the greatest improvers: The cities which have shown the most substantial improvement since 2012-14 come from right across the index, including Doncaster, Wakefield & Castleford and Swindon and Coventry.

‘Brexit’ - a risk to future improvement in city scores: 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.

Combined Authorities – common challenges: All Combined Authorities, included in the index for the first time, have both areas of significant relative strength, but also potential development areas they need to consider.

Find out how your city or Local Enterprise Partnership performs

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Perfomance compared to cityLEP average
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Below average (≤ -0.5)
Around average (-0.49 – +0.49)
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Relative to the index for all cities LEPs in 2011-13
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Implications for cities

  • Delivering good growth is all about balance, in particular between investment in growth and public service reform. With the introduction of 100% business rate retention, this will become a more challenging balance to strike, with the variable proceeds of growth feeding directly into investment in local public services.
  • Places need to pick their priorities for investment for growth, including investing in social infrastructure, such as skills, as well as physical infrastructure, particularly housing and transport.
  • Cities need to build distributed leadership.  Over the next year there will be much focus on the new ‘metro’ mayors being elected in cities including Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and the West Midlands. Our Citizens’ Juries at the 2016 party conferences highlighted what the public want from a mayor – including being a champion for the area, a good communicator and having integrity - but good growth cannot be achieved by any one person alone. Delivering good growth requires players across local government, central government and the private sector to act together and work collaboratively.
  • There is a need to embrace key digital and data enablers to support delivery, from building an evidence base of what works through to transforming public services and delivering good growth from which everyone can feel the benefits.
  • Finally, while the repercussions of the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not become apparent for some time, our analysis suggests that Brexit will bring new risks and opportunities for UK cities.  Cities need to grasp the impacts, understand their strengths and weaknesses in a post-EU landscape and develop a prioritised action plan.


Contact us

John Hawksworth
Chief Economist
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7213 1650

Nick C Jones
Global Director of PwC’s Public Sector Research Centre
Tel: +44 (0)20 7213 1593

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