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5 best UK cities to live and work in

shutterstock_169870073If you’re thinking of relocating to a different part of the UK for work, you might want to look beyond London. While the capital pays the highest average wages in the country, the lack of affordable housing, transport congestion and long working hours comes at a cost. In fact, London is the third worst place to live and work in the country, according to the 2015 Good Growth for Cities Index.

The report looked at 39 towns and cities across the UK and measured their performance against economic performance and quality of life. The criteria included jobs, health, income and skills, as well as things like housing affordability, commuting times, work-life balance and pollution.

So where’s the best place to live and work? Here are the top five cities for jobs and quality of life…

1. Reading & Bracknell

Average salary: £621 a week

Reading and Bracknell is the best place to live and work in the UK according to the Index, scoring highly for job opportunities, income, health, transport links and (relatively) affordable housing.

Only a 30-minute train ride from central London, Reading is home to a well-established digital cluster – almost one-in-five businesses here are tech firms – as well as a thriving investment and insurance sector. Notable firms include Verizon, Cisco, Prudential, ING Direct, Yell Group, BG Group, Symantec, Microsoft, Oracle, LogicaCMG, and PepsiCo, amongst others. Like most major cities, Reading also has offices of the big four accounting firms Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young and KPMG.

Reading is set to stay on top for years to come, it seems. According to a recent economic forecast by EY Economics for Business, a part of Ernst & Young, Reading and the Thames Valley is expected to out-perform London and the rest of the UK in terms of growth in the next three years.

Richard Baker, EY’s Managing Partner across the Thames Valley & South Coast said: “With information and communications accounting for 27% of GVA* more than double the national average, Reading is particularly well placed to benefit from the growth in the digital economy.”

2. Oxford

Average salary: £555 per week

Second on the list is Oxford – home to dreaming spires and the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Unsurprisingly, workers in Oxford are amongst the most qualified and best paid in the UK. More than a third of Oxford’s workforce are employed in professional occupations, such as scientists, health professionals, teachers and lecturers, nearly double the 17% England average.

Oxford’s diverse economy has key strengths in tourism (the city is the seventh most-visited by international visitors in the UK); manufacturing (particularly car production – the BMW-owned Mini car is produced in the suburb of Cowley); publishing (companies include Oxford University Press, Wiley-Blackwell and Elsevier), not to mention a strong heritage in brewing and a growing high-tech sector.

3. Edinburgh

Average salary: £554 per week

Edinburgh is the best city for jobs growth, posting 79% more job adverts in April 2015 than in the same month last year (almost twice the national average), according to jobs site CV-Library.

Strong foreign investment combined with an established financial services sector is helping to fuel growth. The second-largest financial services sector in the UK, Edinburgh is home to The Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life, Scottish Widows, Tesco Bank and Virgin Money – and thanks to a plentiful supply of well qualified staff and more affordable property than the capital, the Scottish city continues to be the city of choice for financial service start-ups.

Edinburgh is also home to a growing tech cluster, thanks to a combination of its strengths in academia, extensive history in software businesses (Cisco, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon) and the high quality of life, which encourages IT students to stay in the city after graduation.

4. Cambridge

Average salary: £546 per week

The university town of Cambridge has grown to become one of the most important technology and biomedical clusters in Europe. According to a Centre for Cities report, an impressive 12,400 jobs were created in the city between 2004 and 2013 – almost a third of them in knowledge-intensive industries. Not only are Cambridge workers some of the most highly-skilled and well-paid in the country, they’re also the least likely to claim Job Seekers Allowance. In 2014, Cambridge boasted the second-highest employment rate in the country, behind Warrington.

The strong jobs market has helped to fuel the city’s growing population, which has increased twice as fast as the national average during the last decade. If there’s a downside to success, it’s the city’s lack of housing. Between 2013 and 2014, house prices in Cambridge soared by 14.3% – compared to a national average of 5.5% – making it the third most unaffordable place to live in the UK.

5. Aberdeen

Average salary: £625 a week

Workers in Aberdeen take home the the highest average weekly pay in the UK and enjoy one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country – of just 2%, compared to a national average of 5.9%.

Aberdeen has seen the fastest growth in business stock of any UK city – with 40% more businesses today than 2004. As a result, jobs in Aberdeen have increased by 8% over the past 10 years, with a 9% growth in population. The city’s success has in part been due to the energy sector, but with the future of the subsea oil industry now in jeopardy, many workers are now facing redundancy. Outside of the energy sector, the city is seeing continued growth. One-in-three businesses here are now in professional, scientific and technical sectors, many working on cutting edge research.

Best (and worst) of the rest

In case you’re wondering, the next best cities on the 2015 Good Growth for Cities Index are:

  1. Southampton
  2. Bristol
  3. Belfast
  4. Leicester
  5. Coventry
  6. Portsmouth
  7. Preston
  8. Norwich
  9. Swindon
  10. Milton Keynes & Aylesbury

And the worst five worst cities are:

  1. Wakefield and Castleford
  2. Middlesbrough and Stockton
  3. London
  4. Sunderland
  5. Liverpool

Image Copyright: Luis Molinero,

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