UK competitiveness increasingly concentrated in London

Since the financial crisis the City of London has become a more important source of competitiveness and future growth for the British economy as a whole. This is one of the findings of the 2013 UK Competitiveness Index report, compiled by Professor Robert Huggins of Cardiff University and Dr Piers Thompson of Nottingham Trent University, which benchmarks the competitiveness of all local authority areas in Britain.

London boroughs account for the top nine most competitive places in Britain, headed by some distance by the City of London, and followed by Westminster, Camden, and Southwark. A number of England’s largest cities – including Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Liverpool – have seen their position improve since the 2010 index, suggesting a continued urban renaissance in these core cities.

In Scotland, Glasgow has also improved its competitiveness, while in Wales, Cardiff has seen its competitiveness fall. Amongst those cities that have improved their position, the most notable is Manchester, with the North West of England region as a whole showing competitiveness improvements.

In the case of the devolved administrations, local authority areas in both Scotland and Wales generally fail to show any overall progress, and are continuing to lose ground. The least competitive locality in Britain is Blaenau Gwent in the South Wales valleys, which has continued to see a continued erosion of its competitiveness.

Blackpool is the lowest ranked locality in England, followed by another coastal locality in the form of Gosport in South East England. In Scotland, the lowest ranked locality is North Ayrshire, which has seen a significant fall in its competitiveness during the period.

In England, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas in the Greater South East of England are by far the most competitive, led by the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP area, followed by the London LEP area and the Enterprise M3 LEP area (comprising of those localities situated near and along the M3 motorway). At the bottom of the LEP area rankings are the urban economies of the more northern parts of England, with the least competitive being the Black Country LEP area, followed by the Liverpool City Region and the North Eastern LEP area.

According to Professor Huggins:

“The indices suggest continuing economic divergence across Britain. The clearest trend is the increased concentration of Britain’s economic competitiveness and growth capacity within London, in particular the City. During the period following the introduction of regional development agencies (RDAs) in England, competitiveness had begun to become more evenly spread across certain regions. Although Local Enterprise Partnerships were introduced by the coalition government to replace RDAs, they have lacked the funding power of the RDAs, and do not appear to have taken forward some of the improvements in regional economic capacity and capability that were beginning to become apparent prior to their demise.
“Outside of England, there is little to suggest that the economic powers and institutions endowed on Scotland and Wales have allowed their localities to compete any more effectively with their English counterparts. This points to the potential limitations of political institutions in promoting economic development within places ill‐equipped to compete in a post‐industrial economic environment.”

The report concludes that whilst government agencies and devolved political institutions have given the British economy the chance to diversify its competitiveness away from its dependence on the financial sector, this opportunity has not been embraced.


Notes for editors:
1. Cardiff School of Planning and Geography is the largest and most active planning school in the UK and has an outstanding record of academic achievement. Its teaching has been rated as ‘excellent’ and the latest government assessment of research in British universities has reinforced its status as the premier academic School of its type in Britain.
The School plays a leading international role in its fields of expertise and its research has an agenda-setting influence in key debates on the development, management and sustainability of cities and regions.
The School’s research is structured around five large research groups and is leading developments in environment; housing; spatial analysis; spatial planning and city environments; and urban and regional governance.
2. Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University President Professor Sir Martin Evans.
Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Three major new Research Institutes, offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places were announced by the University in 2010.
##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.

A full copy of the report can be freely downloaded at:

Further information:

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

Victoria Dando, Public Relations
Cardiff University
Tel: 02920 879074