A number of Yorkshire towns and cities are driving the region’s economy forward by creating jobs and prosperity but more needs to be done to make growth more inclusive, according to a new report.
Grant Thornton UK’s Sustainable Growth Index, which aims to define and measure the components that create successful places, found that the region performed well for economic growth and job creation, but was weaker on the more socially-focused criteria.
The index measures six socio-economic objectives: prosperity; dynamism and opportunity; inclusion and equality; health, wellbeing and happiness; resilience and sustainability; and community, trust and belonging.
When all six factors are taken into account, Harrogate is the jewel in Yorkshire’s crown, ranking in the top 20 per cent of local authorities nationally. A further four places - York, Leeds, Sheffield and Richmondshire - rank in the top 40 per cent nationally. Six areas rank in the bottom 20 per cent nationally, including Hull, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire.
Andy Wood, partner and Yorkshire practice leader at business adviser Grant Thornton, said: “We can be proud of the economic performance of our cities, and it’s great to see Harrogate leading the way for our region overall.
“We created the index to spark debate about what type of economy the UK wants and Yorkshire’s results show that some local authorities are still struggling.”
Leeds, which ranks in the top 20 per cent of local authority areas in England for prosperity, while Sheffield, Bradford, Hull and Wakefield are all in the top 40 per cent nationally.
For dynamism and opportunity, which measures if a place has the right entrepreneurialism and skill sets to drive future growth, York was the star performer, ranking first in the region and in the top 20 per cent nationally. Sheffield, Leeds and Harrogate also performed in the top 20 per cent.
Sheffield saw a significant increase in relative performance over time, moving up more places in the index than any other area nationally - 124 places between 2013 and 2018. Its performance has shifted from the bottom 40 per cent nationally to the top 40 per cent. Richmondshire and Scarborough moved up 53 places and 33 places respectively.
While the region performed well for economic growth and job creation, the index reveals a slightly weaker performance on the more socially-focused criteria. For example, 13 of the 21 local authority areas are in the bottom 40 per cent for inclusion and equality.
Performance is stronger in relation to health, wellbeing and happiness. Richmondshire, Harrogate, Hambleton and Craven all rank in the top 20 per cent nationally. However, 10 areas rank in the bottom 40 per cent.
Performance on resilience and sustainability is evenly spread across the region. Leeds has the highest score overall, ranking in the top 20 nationally (at 11), followed by Bradford, East Riding of Yorkshire, Sheffield and York, which are also in the top 20 per cent. At the other end of the spectrum, six areas rank in the bottom 20 per cent.
On community, trust and belonging - with indicators including voter turnout, crime, loneliness and community assets - performance is more polarised. Only two areas rank on or around the national average. Nine areas rank above this and 10 rank in the bottom 20 per cent. Two places - Richmondshire and Craven - rank in the top 20 per cent.
Mr Wood added: “There is a mixed picture here, as with other northern regions, of encouraging prosperity and dynamism, but also evidence that we are not creating a society where people feel included. There are clearly still big challenges around making economic growth more inclusive.
“The success of any local place is about so much more than GDP, it’s about people, social mobility, inclusion and wellbeing.”