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Good Growth for Cities

Taking action on levelling up

As the pandemic loosens its grip on the UK, we are beginning to understand how it has exacerbated already deep-rooted inequalities in our society. The more we understand what drives these inequalities the better our prospects of securing a fair economic recovery for all.

The Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities report looks at how well positioned UK cities are for a recovery and what steps the Government, businesses and local leaders can take together to drive Good Growth for all.

Read our latest Good Growth report and explore the data.


For the last decade, our annual Good Growth for Cities Index has measured the performance of cities and regions across the UK. It looks beyond economic indicators, and focuses on additional measures of wellbeing, such as access to jobs, income, health, skills and work-life balance.

As in previous years, we asked the public to provide their views on the measures they think matter most. This year, there is a marked shift in public preferences and in recognition of this, we have refreshed our research approach.

With our new Index, we are able to present a clear picture of what matters to the public now - and look at how central government, local government, the private sector and wider local public services can better respond to public priorities.

The Government acknowledges that businesses and local leaders have been central to driving growth over the last decade, and its Levelling Up White Paper tasks them with taking it a step further - pursuing growth that ensures no pockets of their communities are left behind. We believe there are a number of opportunities for cities and other areas to benefit from the change in public preferences and bring greater precision to their plans to deliver Good Growth.

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Key findings

  • The gap has narrowed between the highest and lowest ranking cities this year, indicating the pandemic has levelled the playing field to some degree.
  • The biggest driver of improvement is work-life balance, across the 12 measures included in this year's refreshed Index.
  • Small cities are leading the UK recovery, with our analysis pointing to stronger growth in provincial cities than in metropolitan cities.
  • Some social groups are benefitting from the economic recovery more than others, with young people set to bounce back more strongly from the impact of the pandemic, compared with women and those from ethnic minority groups.

“A widespread shift in public priorities has been triggered by the pandemic. This shift has led to a change in how and where people live and work - altering the makeup of the UK economy, and the shape of growth prospects for every city and region across the nation.”

Carl Sizer, Head of UK Regions, PwC

Agenda for action

We believe the UK's bid to secure a fair economic recovery and build sustainable growth should focus on the following:

Central government

  • Work with local leaders and industry to develop a roadmap for the delivery of each of the Government’s 12 missions for levelling up.
  • Continue to recognise the potential in provincial areas and the interdependencies that exist between urban and rural.
  • Seek ways to alleviate the housing crisis through alternative access schemes and investment in broader connectivity.
  • Outline a bold approach to delivering the Government's Net Zero Strategy, using investment to drive change at the forefront of innovation.

Local leaders

  • Respond to the public's concerns at a targeted, hyper-local level to deliver growth for their region.
  • Support sustainable growth in rural or provincial areas that can power neighbouring cities and bring economic and social benefits back to the rural areas.
  • Support education and employment opportunities based on an assessment of local needs.
  • Develop the required decision-making processes, investment and skills to deliver green growth in a sustainable and fair manner.


  • Take a proactive role in developing local economic strategies, in partnership with local and regional leaders.
  • Commit to career development for local communities, investing in talent through retraining and apprenticeship programmes.
  • Connect with education and training providers to reimagine their upskilling journey.
  • Craft a coherent and actionable strategy to deliver sustainable green growth.

Regional spotlights

View the local authorities included in each city.

London scores significantly above or below average on all measures - none are average.

Safety, transport and income distribution score well, but jobs remain a challenge for most cities.

A solid performance across a range of measures sees Belfast as the top devolved city.

Fair income distribution and a good house price to earnings ratio make living in the region affordable.

Health inequalities have a significant impact on the three Scottish cities, but skills rank well.

The region performs very strongly, taking 1st, 2nd and 4th place. But does success come at a price?

A very strong growth rate for the region paints a positive picture for economic recovery post pandemic.

Continued growth in the job market sees Cardiff and Swansea catching up with other cities in the index.

A positive story for house price to earnings; however the region faces challenges in economic recovery.

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Contact us

Karen Finlayson

Karen Finlayson

Risk Assurance Partner and Regional Lead for Government, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7881 805552

Justin Martin

Justin Martin

Devolved and Local Government Sector Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7212 4269

Daniel Burke

Daniel Burke

Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7764 661609

Rachel Taylor

Rachel Taylor

Leader of Industry for Government and Health Industries, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7841 783022

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