City in Wales

September 3, 2021
Making a splash: A refuse

A stunning view of Cardiff BayCARDIFF is the most competitive city in Wales for business, but connectivity issues mean it still lags behind the best in the UK, according to a new report.

The UK Town and City Index produced for Santander examined business competitiveness across the UK.

It scored 74 major towns and cities across the UK on 20 factors including business survival rates, median income and broadband speeds.

Cardiff posted the highest overall score in Wales, coming in 27th out of the 74 towns and cities examined.

Newport came in at a lowly 48th, while Swansea ranked at 52nd overall.

The report’s author Francis Greene, professor of small business and entrepreneurship at Birmingham Business School, grouped the 20 factors impacting on the competitiveness under five broad themes – Enterprise, Talent, Connectivity, Costs and Well-being.

Cardiff scores particularly well in the talent category, with the 38.9% of residents who are educated to NVQ4 level or above being well ahead of the 74 city average of 29.1%. Cardiff was ranked 20 in the UK for talent overall, with the report noting that the high score is "helpful for promoting favourable business conditions because any town or city relies on its residents: ‘smart’ towns need ‘smart’ people."

However, issues with broadband speeds meant the city scored less strongly for ‘connectivity’ coming in at 52nd of the 74 cities examined.

Professor Green said that with better connectivity Cardiff could have scored even higher.

"Cardiff has one of the best universities in the UK and obviously that acts as an anchor for a talented population, " he said. "One of the things that is important for business competitiveness is having smart people doing smart things.

"But if you want smart people doing smart things you would expect higher levels of connectivity and that’s what’s pulling the rating down.

"Cardiff would do a lot better without those connectivity issues."

The picture for Newport was more mixed. The city came in at 41st for talent, but its overall ranking was hit by its ranking of 55th overall for connectivity.

The report identified strengths of the city as relatively low council tax (a proxy for business rates) and good sectoral diversity, making the city better able to respond to economic shocks.

However, the city’s carbon dioxide emissions were considerably higher than the average, and the report said this was an indicator of pollution levels that may impact on the attractiveness of the city.

Swansea scored strongly for costs (joint 24th overall) and talent (joint 28th), but it suffered particularly in the enterprise category, coming joint 64th overall.

The report noted that the city had a higher than average rate of business churn, with the city losing more businesses than it created.

The employment rate at 60%, was markedly below the 74 city average of 69%.

Swansea also had a lower than average satisfaction score, something that may have a negative impact on consumer and business confidence.

"Relative to other places in the UK, Swansea has struggled in terms of business enterprise activity, " said Professor Green. "One of the key things that comes out is that its business population has suffered more than Cardiff or Newport’s during the economic downturn.

"It has lower levels of employment and what that means is that it is harder to sustain businesses."

Outside of Wales, Cardiff’s closest rival Bristol came in at ninth on the index, with Cambridge taking the top spot overall followed by Oxford.

But towns and cities in the north of England scored particularly poorly, Sunderland propped up the table in 74th Barnsley at 73rd and Oldham at 72nd.

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