North/south divide debunked

16-07-2008

North/south divide debunked
A new report released today has debunked the north/south divide, arguing instead individual cities contribute different amounts to the national economy.

The report, carried out by the Work Foundation, finds, while some cities are 'resurgent' – i.e. growing with increasing momentum – others are 'stuck' in their present malaise.

Cities - including Reading, Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle - have made substantial gains in their economic growth over the last ten years by attracting higher value businesses and highly skilled people.

However, others - such as Hastings, Stoke, Barnsley and Wigan - are falling behind, failing to produce convincing signs of being able to gain momentum.

These differences risk being exacerbated by the credit crunch as too many UK cities have built up a reliance on financial service jobs compared to their European counterparts – warns the How Can Cities Thrive in the Changing Economy report.

"Some big cities of the UK have clearly bounced back from the decline of manufacturing, and have galvanised themselves to be productive, thriving, 21st century places," explained Alexandra Jones, associate director of Work Foundation.

"But look at the next tier and political alarm ought to set in. The stuck cities of Britain have rising proportions of people in low socio-economic groups and very low rates of employment in better paying professional jobs."

Top of the league in terms of Gross Value Added to the economy is the city of Cambridge.

On average each Cambridge citizen adds £30,418 to the value of the economy, a figure which has increased by 54.4 per cent over the last decade.

Oxford comes second, adding an average £30,183 per head to the economy, while Reading has moved up from 11th a decade ago into third.

At the other end of the scale, a resident of Barnsley adds £10,728 on average to the economy, while citizens of Wigan add £10,998.

"Their businesses have low productivity rates," added Ms Jones.

"Many refuse to recognise that their economic future relies on trade links with a neighbouring city that, despite being a historic rival, is now thriving. And they are often blighted by either chaotic or complacent leadership."

"In time, higher productivity should feed through to rising prosperity, a better quality of life and the ability to attract more highly skilled people," concluded Ms Jones.

"The table points to the places that are becoming the engines of national economic performance – and which need sustained policy attention to help them grow," she concluded.

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