Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Belfast enters top 10 UK cities to live

Quality of life measures such as work-life balance, travel-to-work times and environment combined to put Belfast in the top 10 cities
Quality of life measures such as work-life balance, travel-to-work times and environment combined to put Belfast in the top 10 cities

Good quality of life for its citizens has helped put Belfast in ninth place in a top 10 of growing UK cities published today.

Belfast outstripped even Manchester, Liverpool and London in the "good growth index" by business advisers PwC and think tank Demos, rising from 16th place in last year's index.

Demos assessed 39 cities on factors beyond economics – such as jobs, health, income, work-life balance, travel to work times and skills – arguing that attributes other than GDP are what make a city a good place to live.

But it presents a rosier view of the city's traffic than a survey by sat nav company TomTom last week, which named it the UK's most congested city.

PwC in Belfast said Northern Ireland's handicaps – such as a rate of economic growth lagging far behind the rest of the UK – made it crucial that we flaunt our "good growth" credentials.

Londonderry made it in at last place in the top 10 UK cities with populations of less than 250,000 people.

Dr Esmond Birnie, PwC's Northern Ireland chief economist, said Belfast scored well in most key categories.

"Belfast performs well in the economic measures of jobs, income, and quality of life measures like travel-to-work times, environment and work-life balance.

"Many large English cities are paying a high price for economic success, from increased congestion and pollution, to income inequality, high house prices and marathon travel-to-work journeys.

"Our research suggests that people prefer to live where they can acquire jobs, skills and advancement as well as enjoy affordable housing and a good quality of life.

"Our research also suggests that investment follows the same priorities, seeking skills, talent and infrastructure.

"If you accept that the measure of a city is not just about GDP and that other factors attract both people and investors, Belfast performs well, while Derry/Londonderry shows considerable potential amongst the UK's smaller cities."

Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said the index granted "great kudos" for Belfast.

"I think it underpins the confidence that our great city and its people are starting to show," he said.

"The very fact that the front cover of this report features Titanic Belfast is proof of just how far the Belfast brand is reaching."

Dr Birnie said Northern Ireland's growth for 2014 was forecast at just 1.7%, the lowest of all 12 UK regions.

"It is important that we robustly market the attractions of Belfast, Derry and Northern Ireland to a wider audience," he said.

But he added a note of caution: "We remain overly dependent on public sector employment, with other parts of the region not performing as well as the Belfast metropolitan area.

"The Assembly and Northern Ireland's city planners have an important role to play in creating a platform for even greater growth through a focus on the key levers of skills, infrastructure and innovation."

1. Reading and Bracknell

2. Aberdeen

3. Edinburgh

4. Southampton

5. Cambridge

6. Oxford

7. Preston

8. Bristol

9. Belfast

10. Norwich

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