Belfast quality of life 'above average'

Belfast was rated as above average in the UK City league table.

Belfast is among the top UK cities ranked against factors contributing to a good quality of life, according to a new study.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012
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The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers measured the performance of 36 UK cities against a number of factors and ranked Belfast as a "good growth" city.

Ten categories were analysed, defined by the public as key to economic success and well-being in a new assessment of how UK economic performance could be measured in large cities apart from GDP.

The most important of these were perceived to be: health; work-life balance; and infrastructure (housing and transport) with these three alone accounting for up to half of the public's definition of what contributed to good growth.

By these broader social measures, cities like Belfast and Aberdeen rank higher than they would if economic performance or employment were the sole criteria - those measures where cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester, normally dominate.

The report ranks Belfast 16th of the 36 cities measured, falling into the 'above average' category and higher that cities like Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and even the London Boroughs.

Commenting on the research, Dr Esmond Birnie, PwC chief economist in Northern Ireland said: "The financial crisis and subsequent downturn has provoked a lot of debate around economic growth and just what good growth looks like, so it's no surprise that the public is now considering other issues as integral to the bigger economic picture.

"The public considers traditional measures of economic success -jobs and income as critical to growth but health, work-life balance, transport infrastructure and affordable housing also feature as important.

"Our findings suggest a good growth measurement approach could, particularly in a time of austerity, help government and local authorities focus their investment and resource allocation on the things that matter most to the public."

We may complain about traffic congestion and lower than average wages, but compared to other UK cities and as measured by these broader 'good growth' categories, Belfast compares very favourably with some of the biggest cities in England and Scotland.

Esmond Birnie, PwC chief economist

The highest ranking cities in the Index, like Reading Edinburgh and Cambridge, tended to do relatively well on jobs, income and health, as well as providing for the future and the environment.

However the results suggest these factors come with a price - meaning relatively low scores for work-life balance, travel to work times and housing affordability.

Housing affordability is frequently a focus of concern including in Oxford, Bristol and London, while the slump in property prices in the Belfast 'travel to work area' delivers greater housing affordability.

Belfast compares well with cities in other devolved regions of Scotland and Wales, ranking top, in terms of transport (average commuting time to work) and work-life balance (percentage of working population routinely working more than 45 hours per week).

However, Belfast ranks less well in terms of property ownership, health (percentage of non working population on long-term sickness) and providing for future generations (percentage of households with long-term savings).