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Cambridge tops Grant Thornton’s sustainable growth index for sixth year - and South Cambridgeshire is close behind

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Cambridge has topped a sustainable growth index for the sixth year running.

The report by business and financial advisers Grant Thornton compares 324 local authority areas in England.

Tim Taylor, Grant Thornton (25454274)
Tim Taylor, Grant Thornton (25454274)

As well as being first overall, the index also ranks the city as the best area in the country for dynamism and opportunity, which measures entrepreneurship and innovation by looking at the number of business formations, patent applications and education levels.

South Cambridgeshire was close behind, coming seventh in the overall index and sixth for dynamism.

The index features six indicators, which draw on 50 different data sources. Cambridge was in the top 20 per cent of all local authorities for five out of six of them.

It climbed three places to 42 for prosperity, which evaluates local wealth and job opportunities using measures such as GVA per job and average earnings.

It also came 42nd for health, happiness and wellbeing - jumping a massive 190 places from last year, which meant it was in the top five most improved areas in this category, which measures factors including life expectancy, diabetes prevalence and sports participation, as well as life satisfaction scores.

There was also significant improvement in this category for South Cambridgeshire, which rose 105 places from 156 to 51.

In the community trust and belonging indicator, measuring cultural amenities and crime rates among other factors, Cambridge came sixth.

But it fell 24 places to 43 for resilience and sustainability, which considers the impact the local economy has on the environment by studying factors such as air quality, recycling rates and CO2 emissions.

And it was 88th for inclusion and equality, an indicator that South Cambridgeshire did well in, coming 13th. East Cambridgeshire (46th) and Huntingdon (71st) were also ahead of Cambridge in this category, which is based on housing affordability, total income and deprivation levels.

Tim Taylor, practice leader at Grant Thornton’s office in Cambridge, said: “Cambridge continues to the lead the way for innovation and entrepreneurship and is a much-loved place to live and work with a highly engaged local community. The city has also made great strides to improve the health and happiness of its residents, which is very encouraging to see.

“However, the trends we are seeing nationally suggest that authorities in big towns and cities are struggling to translate positive scores in the areas of ‘prosperity’ and ‘dynamism’ into inclusive societies where every member of the population feels the benefits of economic success. This year’s report has highlighted this as a key area of improvement for Cambridge and that the city is currently lagging behind its local authority neighbours.”

The overall index placed Huntingdonshire 96th, East Cambridgeshire in 155th and Fenland came in at 304 - all three fell on their 2018 positions, with Fenland plummeting 36 places and languishing in the bottom 20 per cent.

In a further indication of Cambridgeshire’s inequality, Fenland recorded drops in all six indicators and also ranked in the bottom 20 per cent for dynamism, health and community trust.

“Grant Thornton created the sustainable growth index as a new way of measuring the success of an area which takes into account more than just economic performance,” said Tim.

“There is an appetite from leaders throughout the UK across the public, private and third sectors to have this conversation; they want to understand the challenges facing their local area and our aim is for these findings to kick-start conversations, and help inform and shape future investment decisions.”

Behind Cambridge in the index are Westminster, Camden, Oxford and Wokingham. The South East dominates the top end of the report, with 31 out of 67 local authorities in the top 20 per cent.

Grant Thornton Sustainability Index rankings


  • Prosperity - 42
  • Dynamism and opportunity - 1
  • Inclusion and equality - 88
  • Health, wellbeing and happiness - 42
  • Resilience and sustainability - 43
  • Community, trust and belonging - 6
  • Overall - 1

South Cambridgeshire

  • Prosperity - 22
  • Dynamism and opportunity - 6
  • Inclusion and equality - 13
  • Health, wellbeing and happiness - 51
  • Resilience and sustainability - 79
  • Overall - 7

East Cambridgeshire

  • Prosperity - 203
  • Dynamism and opportunity - 76
  • Inclusion and equality - 46
  • Health, wellbeing and happiness - 197
  • Resilience and sustainability - 214
  • Community, trust and belonging - 222
  • Overall - 155


  • Prosperity - 87
  • Dynamism and opportunity - 152
  • Inclusion and equality - 71
  • Health, wellbeing and happiness - 146
  • Resilience and sustainability - 52
  • Community, trust and belonging - 194
  • Overall - 96


  • Prosperity - 53
  • Dynamism and opportunity - 141
  • Inclusion and equality - 263
  • Health, wellbeing and happiness - 221
  • Resilience and sustainability - 100
  • Community, trust and belonging - 183
  • Overall - 174


  • Prosperity - 199
  • Dynamism and opportunity - 293
  • Inclusion and equality - 191
  • Health, wellbeing and happiness - 321
  • Resilience and sustainability - 217
  • Community, trust and belonging - 309
  • Overall - 304

Definitions of categories

Prosperity - We have an economy that is producing wealth and creating jobs.

Dynamism and opportunity - Our economy is entrepreneurial and innovative, with a skilled population that can drive future growth.

Inclusion and equality - Everyone benefits from economic growth. The gap between richest and poorest narrows, regional disparities reduce and there are equal opportunities for all.

Health, wellbeing and happiness - People are healthy, active and positive. They lead fulfilling lives and are able to take up opportunities.

Resilience and sustainability - Our economy has a neutral impact on the natural environment and our built environments are resilient places we want to live in.

Community, trust and belonging - Successful places have a lively and creative cultural life, and communities with clear identities that inspire pride. People feel safe, engage in community activities and trust the integrity of businesses and institutions.

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