Life

Move over London — these are the best UK cities to live and work in

Oxford, Oxfordshire, U.K.
Joe Daniel Price, Getty

Oxford has been ranked the U.K.'s top city for living and working, while the Yorkshire city of Bradford has been rated as the most improved location in a survey about growth in Britain.

The annual "Good Growth for Cities" survey by accountancy firm PwC and think tank Demos, polled 2,000 U.K. adults.

The research measured the performance of the U.K.'s largest cities against 10 indicators that people thought were most important when it came to economic wellbeing, including job security, work-life balance, high levels of entrepreneurship and affordable housing.

Oxford and Reading held onto first and second place for another year, with the former increasing its lead at the top of the table, driven by higher ratings across measures such as work-life balance, transport and skills. Oxford also ranked within the top five cities for jobs and health.

Bristol edged ahead of Milton Keynes to become the fourth highest performing city.

In terms of most improved cities for growth, Bradford ranked top largely thanks to a significant reduction in unemployment, down to 4.1% in 2018 from 10% in 2015.

London has experienced the largest improvement of growth of any city since before the financial crisis, but lower scores on a lack of affordable housing and ownership as well as longer commuting times had pushed it down the rankings.

And while the northwest city of Liverpool sat in second place for growth since before the financial crisis, it had improved at a faster rate than the capital since 2013.

The research found Liverpool had made significant progress in new business start-ups, income distribution and unemployment rates. The city's working age adults had also become better skilled, while housing had become more affordable and carbon emissions had fallen.

Though Liverpool had also experienced weaker growth in terms of its scores on work-life balance and income levels, relative to the rest of the U.K.

John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said that while the 2019 poll had shown broad-based improvement across most U.K. cities, there were also signs that "progress had plateaued, particularly among top performing cities in the index where unemployment rates were already very low."

Ben Glover, senior research at Demos, similarly said that while three-quarters of U.K. cities had scored higher in this year's survey, "city leaders cannot afford to rest on their laurels."

The research found overall declines in housing affordability, home ownership and health, he pointed out, warning that failure to tackle these issues would "act as a real constraint on these cities in the future."

Highest ranking cities        Top 10 improvers

1. Oxford                               1. Bradford

2. Reading                             2. Liverpool

3. Southampton                   3. Norwich

4. Bristol                                4. Newcastle 

5. Milton Keynes                  5. Cardiff

6. Aberdeen                          6. Swansea

7. Edinburgh                         7. Wolverhampton & Warsall

8. Swindon                            8. Brighton

9. Cambridge                        9. Hull

10. Leicester                         10. Manchester

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