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City’s success is creating new economic challenges, says report

The independent report Fast Growth Cities: the opportunities and challenges ahead represents five of the most economically vibrant, medium-sized UK city economies – Milton Keynes, Oxford, Cambridge, Swindon and Norwich. 

It shows that these cities are playing an increasingly important role in the national economy, with all five places enjoying higher productivity levels than bigger cities such as Manchester and Birmingham.

However, the report warns that these cities are facing a number of significant economic challenges which threaten to undermine their continuing economic success in the years to come, including housing, increasing transport congestion and skills gaps.

It also calls for greater government recognition of the opportunities and challenges facing places like Milton Keynes.

The five are recording higher than average levels of employment and business start-ups and are among the fastest growing places in terms of population.

The report states that the Milton Keynes economy is a major success story and provides around twice as much in economy taxes per worker as is paid out to them in government expenditure.

Population growth in Milton Keynes from 2004-2014 has risen by 18.1%. A strong employment rate has been accompanied by a strong growth in private sector jobs of 14.3%.

Milton Keynes Council leader Cllr Peter Marland said: “The Fast Growth Cities in combination are critical to addressing the UK’s productivity challenge and its ability to compete globally for knowledge economy jobs.

“But our success in Milton Keynes is now producing challenges such as high housing costs, which act as a major barrier to recruitment and retention of skilled staff for local employers.

“We need the flexibility to provide local solutions such as more homes for social rent and better arrangements for infrastructure assembly so we continue to deliver to the benefit of our community and the national economy.”   

Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones  said: “The government’s devolution agenda has understandably focused on boosting growth in some of the UK’s biggest city economies, many of which are punching below their weight economically.

“However, for the government to realise its ambitions of building a more productive and higher-wage economy across the country, it is crucial that it does not overlook the challenges facing the Fast Growth Cities group, which are among the most economically vibrant and innovative places in the UK.”

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