Oxford and Reading top good growth league table

Oxford from South Park, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom, Europe
Oxford from South Park, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom, Europe

Oxford and Reading are the most flourishing places in Britain, with jobs being created, incomes rising and skills being improved.

While the highest-ranked cities in the latest Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities index are still mostly in the South of England, the Midlands and North of England are steadily narrowing the gap.

The top 10 improvers in the 2017 index include Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool and Derby, alongside only London and Southampton from the South.

"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," says John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC.

"But 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. The cities that are highest ranked on our index also tend to suffer the highest price of success."

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The index measures the performance of dozens of areas in terms of employment, health, income and skills - the most important factors, as judged by the public.

Housing affordability, commuting times, environmental factors and income inequality are also included, as is the number of new business starts.

And Oxford and Reading again head the chart - by quite a wide margin - mainly because of jobs, income and skills.

But there's good news across the UK, with all 42 UK cities improving on last year, mainly because of increasing employment.

However, while all 42 cities have improved their year-on-year scores in the overall 2017 index, success comes at a price. We have seen a reduction since last year's report in housing affordability, falling owner occupation rates, rising average commuter times, and minor declines in both the health and work-life balance indicators.

"The economic recovery is now spreading across the country rather than being focused on London and the South East," says Paul Terrington, PwC head of regions.

But, he adds: "If UK cities are to sustain the relatively strong performance of recent years as we move through Brexit and beyond, it will be critical to address these challenges as part of cities' growth strategies, rather than trying to fix the problems later when they become serious constraints on growth."

Highest ranking cities (2017 index)
1. Oxford
2. Reading
3. Southampton
4. Edinburgh
5. Bristol
6. Milton Keynes
7. Cambridge
8. Coventry
9. Leicester
10. Swindon

Top 10 improvers since last year
1. Birmingham
2. Leeds
3. Leicester
4. Newcastle
5. Southampton
6. London
7. Middlesbrough & Stockton
8. Wolverhampton & Walsall
9. Liverpool
10. Derby