Oxford ‘Top UK city to live and work’

Cities in the southern half of England once again dominate this year's rankings of the best places to live and work in the UK.

Oxford Skyline
Compiled by PwC and the think-tank Demos, the 'Good Growth for Cities Index' puts Oxford atop this year's ratings of 50 of the nation's largest cities.

The rankings look at both the expectations of gross value added (GVA) growth rates and a survey of locals' assessments of 12 key economic wellbeing factors, including jobs, health, income and skills, work-life balance, environment and business start-ups.

Oxford secured the number one spot overall as it performed well in areas such as income, health, safety, new businesses and skills. Bournemouth, ranked top in 2021, slipped to second place because of a poor performance on jobs and its high house price-to-earnings ratio. The seaside town, though, still had the best GVA rating, along with Exeter and Plymouth.

Growth gap between North and South cities still noticeable

However, it was Swindon, Reading and Milton Keynes who completed the top five in the overall index, while cities in the north of England and the Midlands largely accounted for those in the bottom half of the list, which PwC said only underlined how the North-South divide continued to present a barrier to growth.

Karen Finlayson, regional lead for government and health industries at PwC, said: “Once again, southern cities dominate this year’s Good Growth Index. It’s clear that regional inequality remains a very clear reality that can’t be ignored.

"The government’s 'Levelling Up White Paper' was a welcome acknowledgment of what is a long-term and incredibly complex problem."

Ms Finlayson said every individual city faced its own unique set of challenges that had to be tackled through innovative, imaginative and tailored solutions.

"The provincial cities that are currently performing strongly will now have a different set of needs than larger metropolitan cities, some of which have experienced a period of poor growth," she added.

“The growth we’re seeing in these areas, combined with changing priorities among the public, presents us with a golden chance for a big reset; this is a generational opportunity to accelerate the levelling-up agenda.

"We must capitalise on the growth we’re seeing outside of our larger cities, which is driven in part by an increased focus on wellbeing and fairness, but there is only a small window to act, otherwise we risk drifting back to the status quo.”

UK capital scores poorly in ratings

Belfast, in eighth place, emerged as the highest ranked city from the devolved nations while Edinburgh came in at 19th. London could only manage 39th place, scoring poorly in areas such as house prices, although the capital was forecast to achieve an above average GVA growth rate in 2022.

Justin Martin, devolved and local government lead at PwC, said: “We’re emerging from the pandemic with a new set of priorities, largely focused around fairness, the environment and work-life balance. It’s likely that the way we have lived over the past two years has led to people reflecting on what they value the most.

“This appears to be having a significant impact on the fortunes of different places, with the cities that perform well not only having strong local authorities but also being characterised by strong environmental and safety credentials.”
Related reading from Relocate Global

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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