The recession has widened the gap between UK city economies. Cities that were already suffering before the recession such as Barnsley and Stoke have been hit hardest, according to Centre for Cities’ annual economic index.
Over the past two years, the difference between the two cities with the highest and lowest shares of residents claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – Hull and Cambridge – has nearly doubled. Cities Outlook 2010 finds that the UK will face an uneven recovery. Already robust city economies like Brighton are more likely to grow stronger, leaving others like Stoke further behind. This raises tough questions about how they can carve out a future that’s economically sustainable.
The turnaround of the largest cities will be critical to the national recovery. More than one in three jobs in England is based in just five cities: Greater London and the City Regions of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool.
The cities of Brighton, Milton Keynes, Reading, Cambridge and Edinburgh have the right ingredients to succeed after the recession has passed. They have strong private sectors, high levels of entrepreneurship, highly educated workforces and large shares of knowledge-intensive jobs.
The cities with a tough outlook are Stoke, Burnley, Barnsley, Newport and Doncaster. They have a weaker business base. They all lost private sector jobs over the pre-recession decade. Their rate of business start ups is low and many of their residents have no qualifications.
As the political parties gear up for the General Election, the Centre for Cities is calling on the party leaders to recognise that the national recovery will be very uneven. The UK may well be emerging from recession. But many cities will continue to feel the effects of the downturn for years to come, especially those with a weak private sector.