Leave a comment

Oxford named top performing city to live in Growth for Cities Report

‘Good Growth’ Survey names Oxford ‘top performing city’  and Bradford the ‘most improving’

A nationwide analysis has named Oxford the top performing city to live and work in the UK for the fourth year in a row. Oxford beat Reading due to its record on work-life balance, income, transport and skills. The ‘most improved’ city is Bradford.

The annual Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities report sets out the findings. The survey aims to show there’s more to economic wellbeing than measuring GDP. It measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities, England’s Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and ten Combined Authorities. Assessment factors include ten things the public feel are most important for economic wellbeing. 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 have been named the top performing cities on the 2019 index. Southampton follows in third place. Reading has maintained its position in this year’s index, although it has seen a decline in its overall index score. Lower house price to earning ratios, income inequality and a fall in new businesses created explain this.


Bradford emerged as this year’s top improver.  Driving its improvement is jobs, work-life balance and skills amongst its 25+ year olds. Bradford has also experienced a large reduction in its unemployment rate. It is measured at measured at 4.1% in 2018 compared to 10% in 2015. The city also demonstrated moderate improvements in work-life balance, health, environment and skills amongst the adult population.

Nine in ten cities score higher than the average for all cities in this year’s2016-18 index, than in the 2011-13 base year. This highlights the rate of recovery since the financial crisis. Strong employment growth reflects a decline in unemployment. It also indicates improvements in work-life balance. This might be a result of more flexible working patterns becoming more acceptable.

Long term data implies that performance over time on the index is unrelated to a city’s starting position. Instead, a combination of local and national improvements in the economy motivate ascendancy. The figure below shows the change in average good growth index scores by variable across all cities since 2005-07 and 2016-18. Skills amongst the population of 16-64 year olds, alongside the number of new businesses created have seen the largest improvements in average scores over the period. However housing affordability and owner occupation have deteriorated over the period, alongside rising average commuting times.

The short term data tells a different story, as 11 cities in the index have witnessed a decline in their score relative to the previous index – this is partly driven by the fact that improvement (especially for top performing cities) has hit a relative ceiling.  However, the price of success has become increasingly evident, with declines in transport and housing highlighting the ongoing infrastructure challenges faced by UK cities. There has also been a decline in skills among young people (16-24) and a decline in overall health.

Highest Ranking Cities and Top 10 Improvers

Highest ranking cities   Top 10 improvers
Oxford   Bradford
Reading   Liverpool
Southampton   Norwich
Bristol   Newcastle
Milton Keynes   Cardiff
Aberdeen   Swansea
Edinburgh   Wolverhampton
Swindon   Brighton
Cambridge   Hull
Leicester   Manchester
The full index showing the top performing cities

The full index showing the top performing cities

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* 7+2=?