The latest Good Growth for Cities 2019, a report by PwC and think tank Demos, measures the performance of the UK’s 42 largest cities using 10 indicators for growth, relating to jobs, incomes, skills and health, as well as housing, transport, income distribution, work-life balance, business start-ups and the environment.

Bradford emerged as this year’s top improver, mainly thanks to its falling unemployment rate. The city had experienced a significant reduction from 10% to 4.1% in its unemployment rate between 2015 and 2018. Yet Bradford has the potential to improve variables such as income and the skills of those aged 16 to 24. 


Oxford and Reading remained at the first and second place of the index, with the former extending its lead at the top of index thanks to increased scores across a range of measures, such as work-life-balance, skills, income and transport. 

Notably, Bristol has edged ahead of Milton Keynes to become the fourth highest performing city, while Norwich enters the top 15 after climbing up four places from the previous index. London’s ranking is pushed down by the lack of affordable housing and ownership alongside longer commuting time. 

From a long-term perspective, Liverpool, behind only London, has experienced the largest improvement of growth since the financial crisis, because of large improvement in new business start-ups, income distribution and unemployment rates between 2005-07, compared with the UK average. 

Although three-quarters of UK cities has shown continued broad-based improvement in this year’s index,  PwC chief economist John Hawksworth said, “there are also signs that progress has plateaued.” He suggested, increased investment in health, education and skills would be important to drive further improvements in the index, given that unemployment rates have been reduced in most UK cities.

Meanwhile Ben Glover, senior researcher at Demos, reminded that failure to tackle housing affordability, home ownership and health issues would act as a real constraint on these cities in the future.