BRADFORD has emerged as this year’s top improver of UK cities on the PwC’s Good Growth for Cities 2019 index.
This improvement has been driven by jobs, skills of 25-plus 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 has also seen improvements in skills among the adult population, work-life balance, health and environment.
The annual Good Growth for Cities 2019 sets out to show there is 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 2016-18 having scores higher than the average for all cities in the base year of 2011-13, 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, PwC opened its new Assurance Centre in the city. The centre is helping PwC continue to provide quality client service.
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.
Cities in Yorkshire and the North East perform well on: house price to earnings, where all nine score above the national average; transport, where all 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 2015-17 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-plus year-olds.
Will Richardson, of PwC’s Leeds Office, said: “The fact 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 2,000 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, 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.”