PwC: Top 5 and Worst 5 UK cities to live and work in

01 December 2014

Reading and Bracknell, Aberdeen and Edinburgh are according to professional services firm PwC the cities with the best medium to long term economic potential. University cities Oxford and Cambridge complete the top five, while Middlesbrough finds itself bottom of the pack.

For the third year in a row, professional services firm PwC, together with Think Tank Demos, released its ‘Good Growth for Cities Index’. The index measures the medium to long term economic potential of the largest 39 cities in the UK, and is based on 10 performance criteria considered key to economic success and wellbeing, such as jobs, health, income, skills, work-life balance, house-prices, travel-to-work times and pollution.

Top 5 UK Cities

According to the index, the Reading and Bracknell area is the best area to live in, with an index score of 0.61 points above average, a spot it was able to retain from 2013. The area’s specific strengths are jobs, income, health and skills. Scotland is well represented in the top cities list, with Aberdeen ranked second, with a score of 0.55, and Edinburgh ranked the third top city, with a score of 0.54. Oxford and Cambridge complete the top 5.

The research also presents the ‘lowest ranking cities’, which is led by Middlesbrough & Stockton, with an index score of -0.49 below average, followed by Wakefield & Castleford (-0.48) and Sunderland (-0.44).

Lowest Ranking Cities

In the research, PwC in addition highlights London’s performance. Despite the city's high popularity - recently BCG named London the most appealing city of the globe - and the fact that it boasts the highest average income levels in the country, it has not managed to make the top 5 of the list. This is according to the researchers the result of low scores for measures such as housing affordability, transport, income inequality and work-life balance. 

Nick Jones - PwC

This year’s edition also compares the cities’ latest results with their index scores of the pre-financial crisis period of 2005-7. The comparison shows that that Belfast, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Liverpool show the largest rises in scores, while Hull and Bradford show the largest deterioration.

Overall, the economic outlook has in PwC's view improved, but, as the consulting firm warns, there is some way to go until the recovery is sustainable. The firm states that for bigger cities to improve their ‘good growth index scores’, they must address major challenges. Nick Jones, Director at PwC’s Public Sector Research Centre, explains: “The challenge is to identify how best to unlock the potential of our cities – the engines of sustainable growth – by investing in the assets and enablers that businesses require to succeed and grow over the long-term, including skills, infrastructure and innovation.” 


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