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Thames Valley: Wokingham heads table as Index reveals vibrant places to live and work

By Dan Teuton
19 April 2018

Grant Thornton UK LLP has published the results of its annual Vibrant Economy Index*, which measures how places in England compare on a range of factors including prosperity, health, wellbeing, happiness, inclusion and equality. It concludes that Wokingham is the most vibrant place to live and work in the Thames Valley, closely followed by Windsor and Maidenhead, Vale of White Horse and Oxford.

Created to spark a debate on what type of economy we want in the UK, the Vibrant Economy Index goes beyond GDP to provide a holistic view of the social and economic performance of England’s towns and cities. It reveals that traditional indicators of economic prosperity – which include Gross Value Added (GVA), average earnings and business turnover – do not correlate in any significant way with other measurements of performance, such as inclusion and equality.

The Thames Valley dominates the league table of the UK’s most vibrant places – with four areas coming in the national top 10. In terms of prosperity, the Thames Valley performs brilliantly with 11 out of 15 local authorities in the top 20 per cent nationally.  The same is true for dynamism and opportunity – which considers the prevalence of skills and entrepreneurialism to drive future growth. In this category, Oxford, Vale of White Horse and Wokingham are listed in the top 10 of areas. Sadly, West Oxfordshire is lagging behind in dynamism and opportunity, coming 241 out of 324 local authorities.

Encouragingly, on inclusion and equality, which explores if everyone is benefiting from economic growth, three of the top 10 performing areas in the whole country are in the Thames Valley - South Bucks, Wokingham and Chiltern.

There’s a positive story too in terms of community, trust and belonging with three areas appearing in the top 10 including Oxford which ranked number one overall. This category takes into consideration community assets, cultural amenities, voter turnout, violent crimes, ethnic diversity and the number of people living alone over 65. Oxford performed better than any other area in these criteria.

South Oxfordshire has seen the biggest jump in performance in the Thames Valley, up 22 places from 35th to 13th place over the past five years. Meanwhile, Slough has seen the biggest drop of 56 places to 246th out of 324 local authorities. While it scores in the top 20% for prosperity, it is among the bottom 20% for health, wellbeing and happiness, resilience and sustainability and community trust and belonging.

Jim Rogers, practice leader for Thames Valley and Southampton, Grant Thornton UK LLP, explained: “The Thames Valley region has lots to celebrate - there are corridors of vibrancy around the M4 and M40 corridors as well as clusters around Oxford and Reading. Encouragingly, many of our local authorities perform really well across the board, showing that prosperity can be successfully married with other key elements such as skills growth, inclusion and equality, sustainability and wellbeing. 

“We long to see every part of the Thames Valley thriving. A key learning for the region from the Index would be to explore how areas that are currently underperforming can learn from stronger areas that are leading the way across multiple criteria.  This Index should provide food for thought and encouragement to everyone in the region, to redouble their efforts to build a positive future and a society that creates opportunities for all.”

According to the Vibrant Economy Index, Cambridge, Camden, Westminster, Wokingham and Richmond upon Thames are the most vibrant places, where there is a good balance between economic growth, social equality, sustainability and healthy and happy people. Other than Cambridge, the top 10 are all in the South of England. However, eight of the top 10 most improved places are in the North or Midlands.

Thames Valley rankings

Local authority Index score (100= average) National ranking (out of 324) National ranking change over 5 years
Wokingham 107.64 4 +3
Windsor and Maidenhead 107.53 6 -2
Vale of White Horse 106.95 7 +1
Oxford 106.85 9 -3
South Oxfordshire 105.66 13 +22
Wycombe 105.22 17 +12
Bracknell Forest 104.83 24 +3
West Berkshire 104.77 27 +1
Chiltern 104.62 28 -9
South Bucks 103.94 44 -30
Aylesbury Vale 103.78 48 +12
Reading 103.37 57 -20
Cherwell 103.30 60 +17
West Oxfordshire 103.04 67 -1
Slough 97.53 246 -56


*About Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Economy Index

The purpose of the Vibrant Economy Index is to provide a tool that will help identify the opportunities for and the challenges to social and economic growth across the nation. 324 local authority areas were measured by key factors in each performance indicator and awarded an overall ‘vibrancy’ score, with 100 being the benchmark.

The Vibrant Economy Index measures performance across six different performance indicators:

  • Prosperity – Do we have an economy that is producing wealth and creating jobs?
  • Dynamism & opportunity – Is our economy is entrepreneurial and innovative, with a population that has skill sets that can drive future growth?
  • Inclusion & equality – Does everyone benefit from economic growth?
  • Health, wellbeing & happiness – Are people healthy and active, leading fulfilling lives which provide individual prospects?
  • Resilience & sustainability – Does our economy has a neutral impact on the natural environment and our built environments are resilient places we want to live in?
  • Community, trust & belonging - Do communities have a lively and creative cultural life, and a clear identity that all its people are proud of? Do they feel safe, engage in community activities and trust the integrity of businesses and institutions?