There’s more to life than GDP… and Milton Keynes is showing the way

Nov 04, 2018

For the third year running Milton Keynes is the best performing city in the Midlands, according to the latest Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities 2018 index.

The city is performing above the national average across of a range of measures, including new businesses, jobs, income, environment and health. However, a price of success for the city is below average for house price to earnings and work-life balance.

The study, published earlier this week, sets out to show that there is more to life, work and general well-being than just measuring GDP. Its findings are based on the views of the public as to te factors that is key to economic success and wellbeing.

These include employment, health, income and skills – the most important factors, as judged by the public – while housing affordability, commuting times, environmental factors and income inequality are also included, as is the number of new business starts.

  • Pictured: Ruby Parmar, PWC’s senior office partner in Milton Keynes.

Ruby Parmar, senior office partner for PwC in Milton Keynes, said: “I am pleased to see that Milton Keynes and the wider region, in which we are a key business hub, continue to perform strongly in the index. This reflects a sustained improvement across a range of measures, including jobs, income, skills and health scores in the index.

“Milton Keynes’ movement in the overall top ten index for highest ranking cities and now featuring in fourth place for the top 10 improvers listing is in part due to the increase in new businesses and strong jobs growth.

“This is testament to the city attracting a rich mix of  FTSE and iconic inbound overseas businesses, private and family business owned firms, as well as being renowned for its focus on science, technology and innovation.”

The index concludes that improving average skills levels for the UK’s youngest workers and driving new business formation have been the strongest drivers of good growth over the past decade, while unemployment levels have fallen back to around pre-crisis levels.

However, this long-term retrospective analysis also highlights areas where there have been structural deteriorations for cities across the UK, particularly around reduced housing affordability and owner occupation rates and steep increases in average commuting times.

These longer term trends contrast with shorter-term movements in the index, which have been driven primarily by falling unemployment rates and, in part due to this, higher household income levels.

Ms Parmar said: “The growth story for Milton Keynes is compelling given the attractiveness of the region to business.  Continued collaboration across business clusters to develop a shared approach to economic development is essential to unlocking transformative growth across the region.
“Unfortunately for the young people attracted to the region with skills businesses need, the flip side of this success has been declining housing affordability and consequent falls in home-ownership rates. As they are pushed further from the city centre to afford a place to buy or even rent, average commuting times have also risen.

Having largely recovered from the financial crisis, addressing the housing and infrastructure supply constraints that drive these negative trends will be key challenges for the next decade for both central and local government, looking beyond the immediate issues around Brexit.” 

Analysis of Local Enterprise Partnership areas in England shows the majority of ‘above average’ scores are concentrated in the Midlands and South of England. South East Midlands LEP had  scores at, or above, the UK average for all bar two indicators, which were house prices to earnings and work-life balance.

All Midlands LEPs are at or above average for jobs, new business, transport and income distribution.

SEMLEP chief executive Hilary Chipping said: “It is great to see Milton Keynes recognised again this year as a top performing city. It remains one of the most innovative places in the country which puts Milton Keynes in a position of strength to maximise future growth opportunities.

“It is also very positive to see that all LEP areas are seeing overall improvements in their ‘good cities’ index scores. This demonstrates the effectiveness of working with local authority colleagues and local businesses to promote long-term sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”

Oxford, Reading and Southampton ranked higher than Milton Keynes, with its improvement score bettered only by Preston, Middlesborough & Stockton and Hull. 

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