Wednesday, 03 September 2008 17:01

Rural areas suffer as cities flourish

Written by  Ruralcity Media
THE rural economy is falling further behind Britain’s cities in competitiveness.

THE rural economy is falling further behind Britain’s cities when it comes to competitiveness, say experts.

The UK Competitiveness Index - which measures the competitiveness of UK regions and locations - shows significant improvements in many cities and urban areas.

But it also shows big drops in competitiveness within the rural economies of Scotland, south-west England, Wales and north-east England.

Competitiveness is falling in the north-east
Robert Huggins, who devised and compiled the index, said: "Urban development in the UK is achieving a significant degree of success. However, this appears to be coming at the expense of many rural areas.

"While improved urban competitiveness is continuing to play a role in alleviating the North-South Divide in economic fortunes, many local economies in rural areas are suffering from declining competitiveness."

Increased efforts were required to explore how the competitiveness of rural economies could be improved in coming years, said Professor Huggins.

Recently proposed solutions such as promoting further migration from the north to the south were only likely to accentuate existing problems and were not a realistic mechanism for achieving economic regeneration and development, he added.

"A far more realistic option is for government to ensure that the public finance received by regions is based on the needs required to improve their future competitiveness rather than past spending patterns and population levels, especially those located in northern regions."

North-west England saw the biggest improvement in competitiveness since 2006 - largely due to the improved performance of Liverpool, Manchester, and Salford.

{sidebar id=7}Liverpool and Salford both rose 44 places on a competitiveness ranking of 407 locations, with Manchester rising 24 places.

Strong gains were also made by York (up 32 places), Darlington (up 73 places), and Durham (up 66 places).

Other cities showing marked competitiveness growth are Derby (up 26 places), Leicester (up 54 places), Norwich (up 51 places), Peterborough (41 places), and Plymouth (up 32 places).

Britain’s most competitive city is Guildford, followed by St Albans and Cambridge. The least competitive cities are Hull, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, and Swansea, although with the exception of Swansea all have shown improvement.

London remains the UK’s most competitive region, followed by south-east England and the east of England.

The least competitive regional economy overall is north-east England, followed by Wales, Northern Ireland, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The least competitive local areas are Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, and Easington in north-east England.

The UK Competitiveness Index is published by the Centre for International Competitiveness at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. It has been tracking data since 1997 and was first produced in 2000.

Copies of the full UK Competitiveness Index 2008 report can be freely downloaded at

The index is a more sophisticated and subtle instrument for measuring competitiveness than standard measures such as gross domestic product per head.

It blends "input factors", such as research and development expenditure, business start-up rates and proportion of working age population with a degree; "output factors", such as exports per head of the population, output per hour worked and employment rates; and "outcome factors", such as gross weekly pay.

Along with north-west England, strong competitiveness growth has also occurred in the West Midlands, East Midlands, and Northern Ireland.

The most competitive local area in Britain continues to be the City of London followed by the London boroughs of Westminster, Camden and Islington.

                  See also:
                              Countryside 2008: Better for business (16 April 2008)
                              Countryside is a 'creative powerhouse' (30 April 2008)
                              Call for support as rural firms struggle (16 April 2008)
                              Rural broadband is unreliable, say firms (15 February 2008)
                              Productivity drive targets rural firms (24 October 2007)
                              Rural areas are top for business (28 May 2007)

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