BRADFORD most improved city in PwC’s Good Growth for Cities Index

Bradford

●        Bradford most improved city driven by jobs, skills and work life balance

●        Hull sees notable rise in jobs and income distribution

●        West Yorkshire Combined Authority scores above national average, ranking fourth overall

●        Oxford and Reading remain top of the index for the fourth year in a row,

●        Coventry saw the largest fall in index score this year, driven by poorer health, transport and income distribution

Bradford has emerged as this year’s top improver of UK cities on the Good Growth for Cities 2019 index. This improvement has been driven by jobs, skills of 25+ year olds and work-life balance. Bradford has experienced a large reduction in its unemployment rate, measured at 4.1% in 2018 compared to 10.0% in 2015. It’s also seen improvements in skills amongst the adult population, work-life balance, health and environment.

Published today (12 November 2019), the annual Good Growth for Cities 2019 sets out to show there’s more to economic well-being than just measuring GDP. The index measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities, England’s Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and ten Combined Authorities, against a basket of 10 factors which the public think are most important when it comes to economic well-being. These include jobs, health, income and skills, as well as work-life balance, house-affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.

For the fourth year running, Oxford and Reading remain the top-performing UK cities on PwC’s Good Growth for Cities 2019 index, followed by Southampton in third place. Although Reading has maintained its position in this year’s index, it has seen a decline in its overall index score, driven by poorer house price to earnings ratios, income inequality and a fall in new business formation.

This year’s index sees almost nine in ten cities in 2016- 2018 having scores higher than the average for all cities in our base year of 2011-2013, highlighting the rate of recovery since the financial crisis. There is strong employment growth, which reflects the continued decline in unemployment, as well as improvements in work-life balance, perhaps as a result of more flexible working patterns becoming more acceptable.

As testament to Bradford’s transformative performance within this year’s index PwC was delighted to announce, earlier this year, the opening of its new Assurance Centre in the city. The Centre is helping PwC continue to provide quality and exceptional client service in what are changing times, standardising work in key areas of our engagements better using technology through automation.

The Centre already employs 135 members of staff with the potential to increase this number creating further job opportunities in the city over the next few years.

As a whole, cities in Yorkshire and the North East perform well on; house price to earnings, where all nine cities score above the national average. Transport; where every city, bar Sheffield, score above the national average and income distribution, where eight out of nine cities score at or above average - in particular Hull which saw a notable rise of +1.63 compared to 2015 - 2017.

West Yorkshire is the only Combined Authority in the region to score above the national average, ranking fourth overall nationally and seeing the largest increase in its absolute score. Of the five Combined Authorities in the region Tees Valley ranks bottom overall, all five score above the national average for house price to earnings. The North East and Sheffield City Region Combined Authority areas are ranked 9th and 8th of a total of 10 across the UK.

Of the six LEP’s in the region only York, North Yorkshire and East Ridings score above the national average and ranks eighth out of 38 LEP areas. The region performs well on house price to earnings and transport, where all LEP areas score above the average relative to LEP’s nationally.

Since 2015 – 2017 the Northern Powerhouse* has experienced a substantial increase in the jobs component of the index, due to an actual increase in jobs resulting in a fall in unemployment . There have also been strong improvements in work-life balance, new businesses, environment and the skills of 25+ year olds.   

Will Richardson, PwC’s Leeds Office Senior Partner commented;

“The fact that Bradford has improved so much in this year’s index is testament to the rich vein of talent and skills the city has to offer employers overlaid with the right leadership and increasingly collaborative key stakeholder group.”

“Bradford is one of the largest cities in the UK, and the youngest city, offering a large and talented workforce that has so much to offer not just Northern Powerhouse growth but the UK’s economic growth too. When I’m asked why we chose Bradford as the destination for our new Assurance Centre my immediate response is ‘why not’. Helping to support inclusive growth by investing in Bradford drives right to the heart of our PwC Purpose and Social Mobility agenda.”

Bradford Council Chief Executive Kersten England said:

"We are delighted to be rated as the most improved city in this year's Good Growth Index. This is in part is recognition of our employment growth and the great quality of life in the district. This has come during a great year where there are many positives to point to - from great national businesses investing in the district such as the NEC and Channel 4 to our strong local businesses such as the growing EXA Networks in the IT sector and expanding high-tech engineering businesses such as Global Precision Engineering in Keighley.  The district has recently been rated by Barclays as the best city to start a business in the UK and we have welcomed the creation of over two thousand businesses in the first nine months of 2019. We know there is more to do and we are looking forward to building on this success."

Ben Still, Managing Director of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, added:

“It’s great to see the good growth index for our region rising but we know there is still much more work to do with our partners to ensure all our communities can access better, more secure jobs that give people a real pathway to an improved quality of life.”

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of NP11 and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said:

“This year’s report highlights the important role that the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership plays in driving economic growth and investment in the region with a strong improvement in our overall index score.

“However, the report also highlights the concentration of higher scores in the South-East. The Manifesto for the North, launched recently by NP11 with Convention of the North, sets out our ambition for a thriving Northern Powerhouse and the opportunity it offers towards rebalancing the UK economy.”

The long-term data suggests that performance over time on the index is not driven by a city’s starting position, but rather by a combination of local and national improvements in the economy. Figure 1 below shows the change in average good growth index scores by variable across all cities since 2005-07 and 2016 - 18. Skills amongst the population of 16-64 year old’s, alongside the number of new businesses created have seen the largest improvements in average scores over the period, however housing affordability and owner occupation have deteriorated over the period, alongside rising average commuting times.

Figure 1: Average change in good-growth scores between 2005-07 and 2016-18.

 

Good Growth Scores

The short-term data tells a different story, as 11 cities in the index have witnessed a decline in their score relative to the previous index – this is partly driven by the fact that improvement (especially for top performers) has hit a relative ceiling.  However, the price of success has become increasingly evident, with declines in transport and housing highlighting the ongoing infrastructure challenges faced by UK cities. There has also been a decline in skills among young people (16-24) and a decline in overall health

PwC partner and local government leader Jonathan House, commented;

“In an era of political, technological and environmental disruption, cities and regions that want to get ahead, need to do things differently. Even with the uncertainty of Brexit, over the last year, local leaders have had significant success in delivering good growth in their cities and regions. Our research shows the need to take a comprehensive approach to growth, focusing on improving productivity to compete on a global stage, but also on ensuring fairness and inclusive growth so that people and places don’t feel left behind.

“Local leaders need to take a broad view on what economic success means, focusing on the outcomes they want to achieve in terms of inclusive growth, community resilience and improved experience, and crucially, having a plan to translate those ambitions into reality.

“Skills amongst the working age population, alongside the number of new businesses created, have seen the largest improvements; this is a result of leaders focusing on building new opportunities and investing in the talent of their city and region.

“The UK’s cities are known globally for their skills, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Our most successful cities don’t compete against other UK cities, they compete against cities across Europe, the Middle East and the US. As the UK’s position on the world stage shifts, cities and regions will need to reposition themselves too, and consider how they can stand out and compete globally, improve productivity and support innovation, while also creating places that are fair and inclusive.”

This year’s index has seen continued improvements in index scores across the UK, driven in particular by falling unemployment rates and increases in new business per head. Whilst there have been strong job improvements, these have reflected a continued decline in house price to earnings ratio. More affluent cities typically have higher overall scores than their less affluent peers, however this also means they typically have lower scores in the areas of housing affordability and ownership, particularly in the case of London.

Previous PwC research found that for those who can afford to buy a house in England, it will cost, on average, around £25,000 to live near the best performing state schools. In addition, PwC’s July edition of the UK Economic Outlook also found that rental affordability ratios in the UK have deteriorated, with some key workers now priced out of the rental market in London and the South East.

The top-10 highest ranked cities in our latest index, which relates to the period 2016-2018, and the most improved since last year’s index were:

Highest ranking cities

Top 10 improvers

Oxford

Bradford

Reading

Liverpool

Southampton

Norwich

Bristol

Newcastle

Milton Keynes

Cardiff

Aberdeen

Swansea

Edinburgh

Wolverhampton

Swindon

Brighton

Cambridge

Hull

Leicester

Manchester

 

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