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The research analyses the performance of 42 of the biggest UK cities
Richard Bell

Are these Northern Powerhouse cities closing the North-South divide?

Cities across the UK are experiencing strong jobs growth and catching up on the typical top-performers in the South, according to new research.

A handful of the core Northern Powerhouse cities were among those showing the highest levels of year-on-year growth in the latest Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities Index.

Although the overall highest ranked cities still tended to be in the South – with Oxford, Reading and Southampton taking the top three slots respectively – the top 10 improvers for 2017 included Leeds (in first place), Newcastle (fourth), Middlesbrough & Stockton (seventh) and Liverpool (ninth).

Birmingham and Derby were also among the 10 biggest improvers (coming in at second and tenth), suggesting that the North and Midlands are steadily closing the gap.

The only Southern cities ranking among the top 10 improvers in comparison to the 2016 index were London (in sixth) and Southampton (fifth).

PwC chief economist John Hawksworth said of the findings: “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.”

He continued: “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.”

In the index’s analysis of England’s Combined Authorities, its was found that Metro Mayor Cities performed particularly well.

Three of the six newly elected Metro Mayors were in top 10 improver cities: Liverpool, Birmingham and Middlesbrough.

According to PwC, while the election of mayors might not have directly affected the index scores, the devolution process that created the combined authorities has been a work-in-progress for years and has already impacted positively on local performance.

Published this morning (November 8), the sixth annual Good Growth for Cities Index aims to show there are other indicators of life, work and general well-being besides GDP.

The research analyses the performance of 42 of the biggest UK cities, as well as England’s Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and new Combined Authorities, against 10 indicators that, according to members of the public, are key to economic success and wellbeing.

The indicators are: employment, income, skills, health, housing affordability, owner occupation, commute times, income inequality, environmental factors and new business starts.

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