Birmingham is fastest-improving city to live and work, says study
Birmingham is the most rapidly improving city in the country in which to live and work, according to a report, as Britain’s second city benefits from falling unemployment and a wave of regeneration projects.
Research carried out by consulting group PwC and thinktank Demos, which takes into account a range of factors including transport, work-life balance, inequality and health, as well as income levels in 42 UK cities, found the West Midlands city had improved the most in its 2017 Good Growth for Cities index.
Birmingham received a shot in the arm from a significant reduction in the numbers of people without a job in the city, as the unemployment rate fell to 7.4% last year from 11.4% in 2013. That still remains above the national average, which stood at 4.3% in August.
The city is enjoying an economic revival after years of decline, which accompanied the waning fortunes of British industry after the second world war. The city is undergoing a facelift, including the redevelopment of New Street station and the opening of a John Lewis store as part of the new Grand Central shopping centre.
The report found a strong performance in cities that have new metro mayors – such as Birmingham’s Andy Street – as the government devolves power from Westminster to the regions. While the new city mayors are unlikely to have had a significant impact on the economic indicators used in the study so far, PwC said the correlation shows the gradual boost to these cities after years of gradual devolution.
HSBC is moving a thousand jobs to the city from London and the construction of HS2 is also expected to give a further boost. Meanwhile Birmingham was selected over Liverpool for England’s bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games in September after impressing judges with its pledge to show off British business alongside the competition.
Still, the city ranked 32nd overall in the latest study, far behind top-scoring Oxford. Yet the analysis suggests the gap between the south of the country and the Midlands and north of England is gradually closing, helped by more jobs being created in these areas.
The top 10 improvers in the 2017 index also include Leeds, Newcastle, Derby and Liverpool, while every city in the study saw an improvement on its score a year ago. Sunderland was placed bottom of the list, closely followed by Swansea and Middlesbrough and Stockton.
Oxford and Reading were the two highest performers in the index, with the most recent results showing that the historic gap between them and the rest of the index remains significant. The report finds this reflects continued improvement across a range of measures in each of these cities, particularly jobs, income and skills.
John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said: “The UK has been a great job-creating machine in recent years and this has driven improvement in our good growth index this year across all major UK cities.”
However, the study also found a reduction in housing affordability, falling owner occupation rates, rising average commuter times, and minor declines in both the health and work-life balance indicators across the 42 cities.
Hawksworth said the highest-ranked locations in the index were also therefore the likeliest to have “suffered the highest price of success”, having experienced the biggest reductions in housing affordability in recent years.
He added: “There has also been a price to pay for this in terms of worsening housing affordability, increased average commuting times and more people having to work long hours.”
- Birmingham was the most improved city in 2017 according to the Good Growth for Cities Index.