Growth and wellbeing accolade for Reading

Wed 21 November 2012, 5:54 pm

Reading has been named one of the top two towns and cities in the country in terms of its economic growth and wellbeing offer.

A report from think-tank Demos and consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers ranks Reading and Bracknell as second only to Oxford when measured by a range of economic and lifestyle factors approved by members of the public.

The Good Growth for Cities report compared 36 major town and city conurbations in the UK, and put Reading ahead of London, Edinburgh, Norwich  and other centres.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said the highest ranking cities in the index tended to do relatively well on jobs, income and health, as well as providing for the future and the environment.

However, the results suggested there is a price for such rankings, seen in relatively low scores for work-life balance and housing affordability.

Paul Cleal, partner at PwC, said the financial crisis had prompted a great deal of soul searching about the kind of economic growth people wanted, with home, family and health being widely considered as part of the bigger economic picture.

“The results show the government’s decision to track national well-being is well placed,”  he said.

“The public considers traditional measures of economic success –jobs and income as critical to growth but health, work-life balance, transport infrastructure and affordable housing also feature as important.

“Our findings suggest a good growth measurement approach could, particularly in austerity, help government and local authorities focus their investment and resource allocation on the things that matter most to the public.

“It’s not a question of whether one measure or approach is right or wrong.

“What the research tells us is that local economic development needs to shift from a narrow focus on Gross Value Added, to a more holistic measure of a city’s success – and its potential.

“Both views ultimately focus on jobs and income and the role of the UK’s major cities in driving the country’s recovery and growth.”

The report’s table was constructed by ranking all participating towns and cities according to 10 criteria considered to be the key to economic success and wellbeing, such as transport, job-security, and affordable housing.

The UK average index score in the report was 0. Oxford scored 0.87, while Reading and Bracknell scored 0.8. Bottom of the list was Sunderland, which scored -0.73.

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