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Economy / Jobs

This is how dependent the British economy is on its city centres

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities. 

Here’s a stat for you: 8 per cent of all British businesses are based in an area just half the size of the Isle of Wight.

That 8 per cent may not sound like much – but it’s in an area that’s just 0.09 per cent of Great Britain. Look:

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Half the Isle of Wight (red) compared with 8 per cent of Great Britain (dark green). See? Image: Centre for Cities.

In other words, it’s punching approximately 90 times above its weight. 

So what is this magical, wealth-spouting place? It’s not literally half the Isle of Wight (though that would be fun; did you know it was briefly its own kingdom?). Rather, it’s the combined area of Britain’s city centres, which play a disproportionately large role in the British economy.


In fact, that 8 per cent probably understates their importance. The bit of the economy in which Britain has a competitive advantage – the bit which is most likely to provide the jobs of the future – is services. Of the firms which export such services, 11 per cent of them are based in city centres.

Those centres also contain a quarter of jobs in those firms, and almost a third of the high-skilled jobs in such firms.

Or, to put it another way: city centres are pretty bloody important.

All this is outlined in this video courtesy of the Centre for Cities. You can watch it, and enjoy the dulcet Mackem tones of principal economist Paul Swinney, below:

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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