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South East dominates league table of top-performing cities

Words: Huw Morris
Oxford / iStock: 830488410

Four out of the top 10 performing cities across the UK are in the South East, with Oxford and Reading again heading the league table for the fourth year running.

The annual Good Growth for Cities 2019 index, compiled by consultancy PwC and think tank Demos, also ranked Southampton in third place while Cambridge reclaimed its position in the top 10 and came ninth.

The index measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities, England’s Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and 10 combined authorities, against 10 factors that the public think are most important when it comes to economic wellbeing. These include jobs, health, income and skills, as well as work-life balance, housing affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups. 

Bristol, Milton Keynes, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Swindon and Leicester make up the top 10.

The top 10 improving cities are Bradford, Liverpool, Norwich, Newcastle, Cardiff, Swansea, Wolverhampton and Walsall, Brighton, Hull and Manchester.

This year’s index shows strong income growth across the South East, as well as improvements in health, the environment and new businesses per head. Six out of eight cities in the South East have scored above the UK average. 

But it also reveals major challenges for the region, particularly housing affordability. All South East cities are below the index average for house price to earnings, suggesting that the area is becoming increasingly unaffordable. 

Previous PwC research revealed that people who can afford to buy a house in the South East face paying £34,000 extra to live near a top-performing state primary school, while key workers such as nurses and teachers are now priced out of the rental market.

“It's important that cities across the South East continue to adapt and address the challenges facing them, particularly around housing affordability,” said PwC’s South East regional leader Keith Harrington. “This is an area that local governments, businesses and communities must address to ensure the region continues to remain attractive to investment and top talent.

The South East’s LEPs also performed strongly, with seven out of 10 areas scoring above the UK average. The top four positions are made up by South East LEPs – Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Enterprise M3 and Thames Valley Berkshire, driven by high scores in skills, jobs and incomes.

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