UK’s best cities and towns for work-life balance

Oxford, Bournemouth, Swindon, Reading and Milton Keynes are the top five cities in the UK for work-life balance. Photo: Getty

Oxford has been named the best city to live and work in the UK according to an index by PwC.

The Good Growth for Cities report measures the factors the public considers important for economic wellbeing, rather than just economic output.

Oxford secured the number one spot as it performed well on metrics such as income, health, safety, new businesses and skills.

Bournemouth was last year’s highest ranked city, but slipped to number the number two spot due to a poor performance on jobs and house price to earnings ratio.

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Swindon came in at number three boosted by good jobs performance, followed by Reading at number four, which did good on income and skills.

The index looks at 12 key economic wellbeing factors, including jobs, health, income and skills, as well as work-life balance, house affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.

Cities in the North and Midlands largely account for those that sit at the bottom, underlining how the North-South divide continues to present a barrier to growth.

Belfast, in eighth place, is the highest ranked city from the devolved nations while London comes in at 39.

The capital scored poorly on areas such as the house price to earnings, impacting its place in the overall ranking.

Karen Finlayson, regional lead for government and health industries at PwC, said: “Once again, Southern cities dominate this year’s Good Growth Index. It’s clear that regional inequality remains a very clear reality that can’t be ignored.

Finlayson added: “We must capitalize on the growth we’re seeing outside of our larger cities, which is driven in part by an increased focus on wellbeing and fairness, but there is only a small window to act, otherwise we risk drifting back to the status quo. “

Areas such as Bournemouth, Exeter and Plymouth, are expected to see the strongest gross value added (GVA) growth rates for 2021 and 2022.

Leeds has performed the strongest out of the cities in Yorkshire, placing 30th, followed by Wakefield and Castleford at 31, and Sheffield at 32.

In the North West, Preston, Liverpool and Warrington and Wigan are seeing the strongest growth.

The highest performing city is Preston, showing up at number. At the other spectrum of that list is Manchester, ranking 47th, due to poor performance in health, jobs and owner-occupation levels.

Liverpool was placed 24th in the index, and Warrington and Wigan were placed 27th.

In Scotland, Glasgow was ranked 42nd while Edinburgh was placed in 19th place while Aberdeen managed to secure the 37th position.

Glasgow had a below-average performance across several indicators including health, income, and job creation.

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In terms of work-balance measured as a percentage in employment working more than 45 hours per week, Liverpool has registered the best improvement out of the 50 cities and towns analyzed

Justin Martin, devolved and local government lead for PwC, said: “We’re emerging from the pandemic with a new set of priorities, largely focused around fairness, the environment and work-life balance. It’s likely that the way we have lived over the past two years has led to people reflecting on what they value the most.

“This appears to be having a significant impact on the fortunes of different places, with the cities that perform well not only having strong local authorities but also being characterized by strong environmental and safety credentials.”

Watch: Michael Gove unveils ‘leveling-up’ plan

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