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North West cities amongst the most improved in the UK

Cities in the North West including Manchester and Liverpool are amongst the most-improved in the UK for the second year running according to a new report.

The Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities 2018 index named Preston as the most improved city, whilst Liverpool and Manchester also made the top 10.

The index ranked 42 cities in the UK across a range of factors linked to the quality of life, including pay, house prices, transport, work-life-balance and employment levels and prospects.

Preston recorded a higher index score and statistically-speaking is a better place to live than London, according to the report, boosted by improvements across health, transport and a reduction in the local unemployment rate from 6.5% four years ago to 3.1% last year.

Greater Manchester topped the list of the most improved Combined Authorities, spurred on by the number of new business start-ups calling the region home.

Other big improvement areas for Manchester as a city from 2015 to 2017 included jobs, skills and work-life-balance. The only negative factors were health and owner occupation which gave an overall improvement score according to the index of +0.31.

Liverpool recorded an overall index increase of +0.1, with big improvements in jobs, income distribution, work-life-balance and house price to earnings negated by negative index scores in areas including health, owner occupation and income.

Warrington and Wigan saw a similar increase as Manchester (+0.32) with big boosts in jobs, new businesses, owner occupation and income distribution. Once more though, health was a primary negative score.

The UK-wide view is a positive one with the average growth score increasing over the last ten years.

The chief economist at PwC, John Hawksworth commented that: “Almost all UK cities have seen improved good growth scores in recent years, driven primarily by cyclical falls in unemployment rates that have now rippled out from the South East of England to regions like the North East that were previously lagging behind.

“But the more interesting perspective is provided when we look at the whole decade from 2005-7 to 2015-17, which covers a whole economic cycle and therefore allows us to identify deeper structural trends.

“The good news here is that successive cohorts of young workers have higher average skill levels, which is pushing up index scores together with rising rates of new business creation in most cities.”

Housing supply the primary concern moving forward

According to Hawksworth, the primary issue moving forward for cities is the affordability of housing with both asking prices and asking rents reaching record levels this year.

“…But the flip side of this success has been worsening housing affordability and consequent falls in homeownership rates precisely for those young people who have invested in acquiring new skills.

Read more: Asking rents reach record high as available property numbers decline

“As they are pushed further from city centres 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.”