Milton Keynes improves its ranking among UK’s elite performing cities

Nov 08, 2017

The city has moved up one place in the past 12 months to sixth. The top 10 improvers in the 2017 index include Birmingham, Leeds and Leicester suggesting a steady narrowing of the gap with the South.

PwC’s chief economist John Hawksworth 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.

“On average across the UK, the index is now at its highest level since it began in 2006 and all regions have benefited from this upturn. 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 the index also tend to suffer the highest price of success.”

Published today (Wednesday), the sixth annual Good Growth for Cities 2017 index sets out to show that there is more to life, work and general wellbeing than GDP. The index measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities, England’s Local Enterprise Partnerships and the new Combined Authorities against ten indicators based on the views of the public as to what is key to economic success and wellbeing.

These include 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.

Milton Keynes was found to be one of the best performing cities but also the  most wide-ranging score profile. The city is significantly above average for over half of the indicators but below average on elements such as work-life balance, house price to earnings and income distribution, suggesting that the city is facing the ‘price of success’ dilemma.

The top 10 highest ranked cities are:

Oxford
Reading
Southampton
Edinburgh
Bristol
Milton Keynes
Cambridge
Coventry
Leicester
Swindon

Most improved since 2016 are:

Birmingham
Leeds
Leicester
Newcastle
Southampton
London
Middlesbrough & Stockton
Wolverhampton & Walsall
Liverpool
Derby
The index shows that all 42 UK cities improved their score on last year’s index, driven primarily by increasing employment. Those cities that have seen the biggest improvements in their overall score have also experienced particularly large falls in unemployment in recent years.

However, a reduction in housing affordability, falling owner occupation rates, rising average commuter times, and minor declines in both health and work-life balance since last year’s report suggest pressure on scarce resources such as housing, transport and labour during the recent period of economic recovery between 2013 and 2016.  

Ruby Parmar, PwC’s senior partner in Milton Keynes, said: “I am delighted that Milton Keynes continues to be in the top ten of the index and has moved up one place from last year to sicxth in the overall ranking.

"This is a significant year for the city as we celebrate its 50th anniversary, which has been a year-long opportunity to showcase the strengths of the city, its people, skills, economy and community.

“Delivering good growth cannot be achieved by any one person working alone, but goes hand-in hand with place-based transformation, where local government, central government and the private sector act together and work collaboratively, to facilitate local economic growth, prosperity and wellbeing.”

Milton Keynes has also benefited from the growth of the UK digital tech industries, with nearly 70% of all UK digital technology investment in 2016 taking place in regional clusters outside London.

Of the top ten cities winning these tech investments, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Edinburgh and Bristol are also among the highest ranking cities, demonstrating the importance of technology as a catalyst of regional growth.

The UK Powerhouse study produced by Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research 2017, also supports Milton Keynes’ tech hub status, suggesting the economy grew by 2.6% in the year to the end of Q2 2017 on the back of its booming technology sector and its track record for encouraging start-ups.

According to the report Milton Keynes also tops the league table for job creation after employment levels grew by 1.4% over the last 12 months.

Ms Parmar said: “We have seen broad-based improvements in our good growth index across the region, driven in particular by falling unemployment rates.

"Some areas that had lagged behind in the recovery from the financial crisis are now showing clear improvements, so the recovery and some early signs of economic re-balancing are spreading across the UK.

“However, we are also seeing the price of prosperity in terms of growing pressures on scarce resources of housing, transport and skills. If regional cities are to sustain the strong recovery and performance of recent years, it will be critical to address these challenges as part of cities’ growth strategies.

“Key national and regional infrastructure projects combined with private sector development, will add momentum to the region for the next decade.” 

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