How to create good jobs in England’s towns

A submission to the Commission on the UK's Future, led by Gordon Brown

31 October 2022

By Charlotte Alldritt, Ben Franklin and Ross Mudie

2 minute read

Download the working paper, How to create good jobs in England’s towns

This paper was designed to feed into the Commission on the UK's Future, led by Gordon Brown, with a particular focus on the creation of good jobs and economic opportunity in towns in England.

Towns are a fundamental part of the economy. With over half of the population of England and Wales living in towns, growth in the wider economy hinges a great deal upon them. Despite the rhetoric of levelling up, progress on spreading opportunity more fairly across the regions and nations of the UK has stalled, and in some cases is going backwards as the cold grip of a pandemic then cost of living crisis impacts the poorest and least resilient places the most. Once again, it will be towns such as Middlesborough and Blackpool that will end up falling further behind. The positive economic effects of highly productive cities can spill over into nearby towns, but this depends on those towns having a strong local skills to take advantage of their proximity to wider employment and educational opportunities.

There is an opportunity to re-ignite the devolution agenda in a way that offers genuinely transformative powers and opportunities for places, including and especially towns, that have long been neglected.

CPP insight reveals:

  • More than two thirds (69%) of the local authorities most vulnerable to the cost of living crisis are towns, with more than half of this subset being towns based outside of combined authority areas. Major vulnerable towns outside mayoral combined authorities (MCAs) include Blackpool, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley and Thanet.
  • Nearly half of the most vulnerable places to the cost of living crisis are former Red Wall local authorities, including many towns.
  • Of the 50 local authorities with the highest shares of low-paying jobs, 31 are towns and just one is a city - Southend-on-Sea, which only received city status last year.
  • There are towns in deprived areas that are home to emerging high value added sectors – this productivity potential must be nurtured to form the basis of more resilient local economies in places where access to good jobs can otherwise be limited.
  • If the share of the local working age population without any formal qualifications was reduced in every area to the rate seen in the top 10% of local authorities, employment in England would be up to 573,000 higher.