Place-based approach required to reduce gap between major cities and rural areas

Feb 06, 2020

People living in urban areas are more likely to feel they are treated fairly than those living in rural locations, according to new research by PwC, released today. 

The findings in a new report has found that people living in urban areas are 48% more likely than those in rural areas to feel that Britain treats them fairly, and 37% more likely than those living in suburban areas.

The report also finds regional disparities in people’s views of fairness: Londoners are twice as likely to say society is fair than citizens in the South West. 

In the South West a place-based approach is required to engage with local communities to improve the public’s sense of fairness. There is a need for businesses, local government, communities and central government to work together to address the ‘new geography of disparity’ across the UK and close the opportunity gap, and create a better sense of local connection and ownership among citizens. 

For example, Plymouth Children in Poverty brings local businesses together to share its vision and determination to tackle child poverty. Steve Patey, a local PwC director set up the campaign to address poverty in Plymouth’s most deprived wards, where approximately two-fifths of children live in poverty. It is an example of local people coming together to address a major problem facing the local area. 

The Government’s Budget on 11 March is expected to deliver investments for ‘levelling up’ regions that feel left out of UK growth, including for major infrastructure projects. But the research shows that interventions which make a tangible difference to the ‘liveability’ of a place can make a direct impact on people’s sense of fairness and is therefore a good focus of policy and investment. 

Tom Ayerst, PwC Bristol office senior partner, said:

“It’s important that a place-based approach is used to make the South West an even better place to live and work. In areas which feel left behind, particularly in rural locations, we need to make sure that wide-ranging collaboration is used to ensure greater engagement in communities across the South West.”

PwC’s latest report revealed that education, infrastructure and technology will be key to creating successful local economies and challenging this new geography of disparity. Regions that work out how to harness the power of place in all its forms will be able to shift the dial on productivity and wellbeing, achieve sustainable growth, attract high-value investment and genuinely compete on a global stage. 

Responses to the survey underline the impact the visual appearance of an area has on how its residents feel – being in a run-down area can make people feel unsafe and depressed even if their basic human needs are being met. This highlights the importance of initiatives which can quickly and tangibly make a difference to the ‘liveability’ of a place. 

Karen Finlayson, PwC partner & regional lead for Government & Healthcare Industries, said: 

“The widening gap between towns and cities is not unique to the UK; it is a challenge being played out in countries all over the world. To address this new geography policy-makers have to balance big policy ideas such as devolution and national infrastructure, with small, localised initiatives which will make a real difference to where people live. 

“Businesses need to take an active role in working with national and local governments to tackle the opportunity gap and create jobs where the talent is. An approach which emphasises skills and technology could help generate more jobs in ‘left behind’ places. As the UK navigates its course outside the EU the whole country needs to become more productive, innovative and skilled to fulfil its potential.”

Leo Johnson, PwC disruption lead, added: 

“The future is local. It’s about finding brilliant ideas from academia to form the right policy for local government, with support at a national level. Using the power of business, policy can be deployed, and make a difference to existing models of growth. 

“The future model of growth is clean, green and features liveable places. It attracts the best and brightest people, and harnesses their talent to unlock potential, and address major challenges facing local places.”


Notes to Editors:

About Making the UK Fairer: How we live

The Making the UK Fairer: How we live report is the third  in a series of PwC Future of Government publications and was created by listening to views on fairness from business, our staff and the UK public.  We will share our emerging agenda of practical proposals for action over the next few months, looking at how to apply our framework to the following priorities: How we access services. 

We worked with Opinium Research on a public engagement programme. We worked  with Opinium, to take a robust and representative snapshot of the UK, polling over 4,000 citizens covering all major demographic, regional, ethnic and political groups. We then used cutting edge statistical analysis to interpret the findings. 

Throughout this process we have shared our findings and thinking with key groups, including from government, business, civil society and our own people. We invited a group of experts to take part in our online community by reviewing the findings halfway through the tasks and we hosted two events with the Institute for Government to explore how the government could improve its spending decisions.

Using the capability of Strategy&, PwC's global strategy house, we have analysed the findings of this research to lay out practical steps towards building a fair and inclusive future for the UK. 

A copy of the report can be downloaded from from 00.01hrs GMT, 6 February.

For further information contact

About the steering group

A steering group oversaw this research and were key to providing critical challenge to the thought process.

Membership of the group comprised: 

  • Rt Hon Alan Milburn (Chair)

  • Nina Bjornstad, North European lead for Google Cloud Consulting

  • Sir Charles Bowman, PwC Partner and former Lord Mayor of London 

  • Ruth Ibegbuna, Director, The Roots Programme

  • Lord Gavin Barwell, Strategic Adviser, PwC

  • Dr Ruth Owen OBE, Chief Executive, Whizz Kidz

  • Neil Sherlock CBE, Senior Adviser, PwC and former Special Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, 2012-13

  • Anna Wallace, Head of Reputation, PwC

About PwC

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Zoë Sturgess

South East and London Media & PR, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 7483 421933

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