London and Thames Valley are the UK’s Most Competitive Economies

The UK’s economic competitiveness continues to be driven by businesses located largely in London and the South East of England. This is one of the findings of the 2016 edition of the UK Competitiveness Index compiled by Professor Robert Huggins of Cardiff University and Dr Piers Thompson of Nottingham Trent University. Based on a basket of economic indicators, the report finds that London accounts for the top nine most competitive local authority areas in Britain, headed by some distance by the City of London, and followed by Westminster, Camden, and Islington.

Southampton is one of the fasted improving cities. A number of England’s largest cities – including Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Liverpool – have seen their position improve, suggesting a continued urban renaissance in these core cities.

At a local authority area level, the biggest climber since 2013 is Gosport in the South East of England, followed by Corby in the East Midlands and Babergh in the East of England. The biggest fallers are Maldon in the East of England, followed by Richmondshire in Yorkshire and Humber and Nuneaton and Bedworth in the West Midlands.

From a regional perspective, localities in London and South East of England lead the way, followed the West Midlands, with the North East seeing one of the largest improvements. In Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh continue to improve their competitiveness suggesting gains from the devolved power to set economic policy. In Wales, however, local authority areas continue to perform more weakly and have seen an overall fall in their rankings.  The least competitive locality in Britain is Blaenau Gwent in the South Wales valleys.

In England, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas in the Greater South East of England are by far the most competitive, led by the London LEP area followed by Thames Valley Berkshire LEP area. At the bottom of the LEP/city region area rankings is the Swansea Bay City Region. There is evidence that less competitive areas take a variety of forms with the more rural Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly the next least competitive, but just above these areas is the much more urbanised Black Country LEP area.

Professor Huggins said: ‘The geography of the UK continues to be economically polarised, with wealth generation driven by a limited number of hot-spot locations. It appears that those areas more dependent on manufacturing are continuing to lose competitiveness, with the UK’s international competitiveness becoming increasingly reliant on high-end service sector activities. The lack of any meaningful and suitably funded regional or local development policy suggests that most of the UK’s economies will continue to operate within a very challenging environment unless new public investment is made available’.

Notes for editors:

Further information:
Professor Robert Huggins, Chair in Economic Geography
Director, Centre for Economic Geography,
School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
Tel: +44 (0)29 208 76006

The UK Competitiveness Index uses a composite measure based on the following: Economic activity rate; business start-up rates per 1,000 inhabitants; number of businesses per 1,000 inhabitants; proportion of working age population with NVQ level 4 or higher; proportion of knowledge-based businesses; Gross Value Added per capita; productivity; employment rates; gross weekly pay; and unemployment rates.