A few weeks ago, we published this piece by editor Jonn Elledge. It showed that Liverpool’s economy has grown faster than was generally realised – but Leeds, once seen as the financial capital of the north, had grown much slower.
The post generated correspondence. For example, this.
I have a few theories to explain Leeds’ relative underperformance:
The centralisation of English finance jobs in London. Leeds is historically England’s second city of finance. But the concentration of finance in London post Big Bang deregulation has been to Leeds’ detriment.
The deindustrialisation of the wider Yorkshire economy, which has affected Leeds badly. Even if there are many good jobs in Leeds itself, the decline of manufacturing and coal mining in other parts of Yorkshire has affected Leeds.
The polycentric nature of the Yorkshire urban area. London and Greater Manchester benefit from having one main CBD. Urban Yorkshire has many: Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster, Wakefield. In the modern world of agglomeration, polycentric cities are bad.
A big graduate brain drain. Leeds University is a solid Russell group institution. But nearly all the students leave after graduating, many of whom go to London – unlike Manchester, where a lot of graduates stay.
Lack of foreign investment. Leeds lacks a global brand, unlike London or Manchester. It doesn’t get the same tourism numbers as Edinburgh or even Bristol, so foreign investors don’t consider it when deciding where to invest in Britain.
Leeds lacks the high tech, cutting edge jobs that are increasingly significant. Cities like Cambridge and Reading have seen high levels of growth because of how many tech companies are based there. Leeds doesn’t have these sorts of companies to the same extent.