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Report warns of Northern city economic slippage

Published: Thursday, 3rd March 2016

A new Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) study has highlighted that 10 of the UK’s top 12 struggling cities are based in the North and risk being left behind by the attempts to boost economic growth.

A new Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) study has highlighted that 10 of the UK’s top 12 struggling cities are based in the North and risk being left behind by the attempts to boost economic growth and create prosperity in the North. No city in the south featured in the top 12 or 24 of the index.

The study analysed the fortunes of 74 cities with populations over 100,000 people. The resulting index is based on such factors changes in employment rates, levels of highly-qualified workers, the number and type of full-time jobs, net migration rates and population change.

The report noted that three of the top 12 struggling places (Rochdale, Bolton and Wigan) are located in Greater Manchester, where substantial powers and resources have been devolved.

The top struggling cities were identified as:

  • Blackburn
  • Blackpool
  • Bolton
  • Bradford
  • Burnley
  • Dundee
  • Hull
  • Grimsby
  • Middlesbrough
  • Rochdale
  • Stoke
  • Wigan

So far, the Northern Powerhouse and devolution agenda has focused on the core cities, the biggest cities in the country, with devolution deals already signed for areas such as Greater Manchester and Sheffield city region. But the report demonstrates that for wider prosperity and rebalancing, areas outside the biggest cities must also share in the benefits of investment and devolution.

Researchers at Newcastle University found that growth in many northern cities was lagging significantly behind national levels.

For instance, cities in the south have seen a much stronger growth in full-time equivalent job creation, which benefitted places such as Exeter and Milton Keynes, while the likes of Burnley and Stoke struggled.

The research said that economic growth alone will not necessarily reduce poverty in cities, so comprehensive and integrated packages of long-term policies around economic development, employment and skills and infrastructure were required.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related development global infrastructure firm AECOM has insisted that northern cities must ensure their planning structures are better prepared to attract foreign direct investment to fund the Northern Powerhouse.

View the report

Roger Milne