Top five UK cities to live and work revealed by PwC

By Andrew Harbison, CA Today

18 November 2016

Oxford, Reading and Edinburgh are the top three performing cities in the UK and the best places to live and work, according to a new report from PwC.

PwC's Good Growth for Cities index found that all of the cities studied in the report are showing an improvement in performance, with the majority outperforming their pre-financial crisis peak.

The index measured cities over a number of factors including gross value-added, jobs, health, income and skills, work-life balance, house-affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality and pollution, as well as the number of business start-ups.

In total, two-thirds of UK cities have improved their scores on the 2015 outcomes.

Oxford took the top spot, Reading came in a close second and Edinburgh scooped the bronze medal position in third.

The five highest ranking cities

  1. Oxford
  2. Reading
  3. Edinburgh
  4. Southampton
  5. Bristol

The five lowest ranking cities

  1. Doncaster
  2. Wakefield & Castleford
  3. Swansea
  4. Sunderland
  5. Middlesbrough & Stockton

Source: PwC

Although Middlesbrough and Stockton, Sunderland and Swansea sit at the bottom of the index, they did experience improvements in some areas. 

The fifth annual report, published by the Big Four firm and the think-tank Demos, measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities, England’s Local Enterprise Partnerships LEPs and the new Combined Authorities against a basket of categories defined by the public and business as key to local socio-economic success.

Success at a cost

The report says that the more affluent cities scoring high in terms of jobs, incomes and business start-ups “are beginning to experience the ‘price of success’ in terms of pressure on housing affordability, transport and work-life balance.”

Performing well in the areas which provide more weight towards a city’s index score means a trading off on the quality and affordability of non-work related factors.

How has Brexit affected the standings?

This question can’t be answered with these figures as the index is based on annual data up to 2015, and does not reflect any impacts from the Brexit vote.

However, the report does make predictions on which areas are most likely to feel the effects of the EU referendum.

PwC identifies housing affordability as an area likely to experience a positive effect from the vote, with the firm's recent Housing Market Outlook projecting house price growth in 2017 will be only around 1% following Brexit, compared to a pre-Brexit scenario of around 5% growth.

John Hawksworth, PwC's chief economist, said that there are some areas where Brexit could make life more difficult for businesses.

“Starting up new businesses, for example, could suffer as a result of increased economic uncertainty. On the other hand, changing trade relations and regulations after Brexit, the shock to the status quo, and the potential opening up of new markets outside the EU could create opportunities for new entrants.”

He continued: “Similarly, investment in transport infrastructure could be hit by reductions in Foreign Direct Investment, but the Chancellor may seek to offset this through greater public investment in transport in the Autumn Statement.

“Collectively, all these factors serve to emphasise the uncertainty surrounding the effect of Brexit. For policymakers across UK cities and regions it is therefore important to understand these risks and the local impact they may have.

“And, even more than usual, it is important that businesses are agile, and have contingency plans in place for both mitigating the risks and seizing the opportunities that Brexit may create.”

Source: PwC


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