Towns, less populous than cities, often fall by the wayside in policy discourse – particularly when it comes to conversations about the economy. We’ve developed the first-of-its-kind Town Vitality Report, looking at what kind of policy focus is needed to unlock the potential of the different kinds of towns across the UK.
Our analysis of 800+ towns splits them into six categories: Vibrant, Opportunity, Backbone, Foundation, Heartland, and Gateway towns – each with its unique strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities.
Key themes, emerging from the analysis:
- A towns versus cities narrative is likely to be counterproductive. Towns benefit from the economic “halo effect” of successful cities, though there are notable exceptions to this phenomenon.
- A North-South divide in economic vitality is far too simplistic. A narrow policy focus on levelling up the North raises the risk of Southern towns failing to meet their full potential, and would ignore lessons from Vibrant towns in the North.
- High skills is the best predictor of economic vitality. Driving up skills levels, attracting talent from other parts of the country and tackling health inequalities has to be a focus of policy.
- Foundation towns need to focus on skills, wellbeing and livability.
- Economic vitality must not come at the expense of wellbeing. Many places that score relatively poorly on economic dynamism have relatively high levels of life satisfaction.
- On average, opportunity towns and heartland towns face the greatest challenges in reaching net zero.
The next phase of the project will develop a policy roadmap for our six town types. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be involved.