Headlines: January 18th, 2010

The recession has widened the gap between Britain’s big cities. The annual index from the Centre for Cities, published today, shows that places that were struggling before the downturn have been hit hardest and in the last two years the gulf between the two cities with the highest and lowest shares of residents claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance – Hull and Cambridge – has nearly doubled.

‘Cities Outlook 2010’ shows that as the country moves out of recession recovery will be uneven. The centre says this give rise to tough questions about how the cities can carve out an economically sustainable future.

The report identifies what it calls ‘five big hitters’ with 39 per cent of jobs in England being based in Greater London and the City Regions of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool. It also names Brighton, Milton Keynes, Reading, Cambridge and Edinburgh as five ‘places to watch’ and says they have the right ingredients to succeed after the recession. They have strong private sectors, high levels of entrepreneurship, highly educated workforces and large numbers of knowledge-intensive jobs.

Cities, such as Stoke, Burnley, Barnsley, Newport and Doncaster are facing a much tougher outlook, having lost private sector jobs in the decade before the recession. Their rate of business start ups is low and many residents have no qualifications.

Dermot Finch, the centre’s Chief Executive, said: “The national economy may be emerging from recession but cities like Brighton are likely to recover more strongly than the likes of Barnsley,” and he added: “The next Government needs to help these struggling cities fix the basics like improving schools and public transport so they can attract new business and jobs.”