UK: Where the grass is greener.

UK: Where the grass is greener. - Relocation 2: Management Today considers the pros and cons of 12 UK cities.

by Daniel Butler and Kate Spicer.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Relocation 2: Management Today considers the pros and cons of 12 UK cities.

Relocation is an expensive business. The Confederation of British Industry reckons the cost of moving a company executive can be as high as £30,000, which may be the equivalent of a several months' salary.

Getting that move right - keeping the executive happy (and presumably motivated) in the process - is a tricky business. Every area of the UK has something to offer, be it quality of life, the low cost of housing, cultural and sporting amenities, good communications, education etc, so a relocation decision is inevitably a compromise.

Management Today has for the first time tried to quantify the compromises and work out which of the dozen major regional cities in the UK (London makes the 13th) offers the most attractive environment for executive relocation.

Rather than concentrate on the myriad of business incentives available to relocating firms or the economic arguments in terms of proximity to markets, cost and quality of local labour, we have tried to put ourselves in the place of the executive about to be relocated and wondering about the sort of quality of life he or she can expect.

Companies, too, are noting these factors when making relocation decisions. "Quality of life and the environment (not just of the office itself but around the office in terms of security and the nature of the surrounding area) are important in recruiting and retaining good staff and in improving work performance," says Jean Crawford, relocations consultant with Jones Lang Wootton.

In trying to determine the best relocation spot among the dozen cities in the UK, we have chosen seven factors which may affect the decision for the executive. These include the cost of housing, the crime rate (worked out as crimes per thousand population), the proximity to national parks, theatres and the ease of travelling from the city centre. In addition, shopping facilities and quality of education (in terms of the numbers of 17-year-olds still in education) are scrutinised.

Giving a score of one to 12 for each of the seven categories (one being the top score and 12 the lowest) we are then able to establish our relocation league table by adding up the totals for all seven. The lowest score wins - a rather crude guide perhaps and one which will no doubt bring howls of protest from several city authorities, but then any comparisons on this scale are bound to offend someone.

London is included in the list as a comparison, though its huge and varied shopping facilities make it impossible to determine the number of shopping multiples per 1,000 people. While London does score well in many of the categories, we have not ranked it in the league table as we assume that relocation is more usual from the capital rather than to it.

Looking at what each city has to offer in turn, we find that Manchester and Bristol emerge as joint "winners" with a score of 31 points apiece. Neither actually wins in any one category. Rather they each do consistently well across all seven categories.

Manchester seems to score particularly well in travel terms, being second closest to a national park and for the ease with which you can get out of the city centre. Its shopping and cultural facilities are also abundant. But it is let down by the crime figures, where it emerges 10th out of the 12.

Bristol's strength is in its location, its educational facilities and low crime rate. But because of its position as the southernmost of our cities, its house prices are (still) relatively high, while it appears to lack the shopping facilities available in many of the other cities.

Cardiff and Belfast, as regional capitals of Wales and Northern Ireland, come third equal. Surprisingly, Cardiff's great strength appears to be the affordability of its homes. Surprising, that is because the improvement of communications (road and rail) over recent years has led to South Wales and the valleys being considered in geographic (if not cultural or political) terms as an extension of the south of England. Cardiff also scores well in having the highest proportion (44.3%) of its 17-year-olds in education. Where it falls down is in having only three theatres and in its distance from a national park.

Extraordinary as it may seem, Belfast's great strength is its low crime figure. With 73 crimes per thousand population, it has the lowest figure for any of the 12 cities. Yet this is the city which has been subjected to a sustained attack by the world's most experienced terrorists for over 20 years. As Sir Hugh Annesley, the chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary noted in his annual report last year: "Notwithstanding the severity and prevalence of terrorism in Northern Ireland, it is still a fact that the overall crime rate here is lower than in any police force area in England and Wales. Furthermore, whilst crime on the mainland rose by over 16% in 1991, the increase in Northern Ireland was lower at 11%."

Belfast also does well in the cost of housing league, coming second to Cardiff. In fact the price of a detached house in these to cities is not much more than 40% of the cost of a London equivalent. And despite the security checks and frequent bomb warnings, it is still possible to travel over 31.5 miles outside Belfast city centre in a short time. The factors dragging the city down are the relative paucity of theatres, shopping multiples (compared to the other cities) and above all, the smallest percentage of 17-year-olds still in higher education.

Sheffield just pips Birmingham to fifth place, largely on the basis of its proximity to a national park (in its case, the Peak National Park which starts virtually on the city borders). It does apparently take half an hour to get just 16 miles from the city centre to this attractive scenery, according to Jones Lang Wootton figures, for that particular category. Sheffield's other redeeming feature is its relatively low crime rate. With just 100 crimes per 1,000 population, it emerges as the second "safest" city after Belfast.

Birmingham does well in the cultural and educational stakes. Despite its image as a down-to-earth manufacturing centre Birmingham boasts no fewer than 11 theatres and 41.5% of its 17-year-olds are still in higher education, putting it first and fourth in these leagues respectively. Yet its proximity to the South East and the good road and rail links with London have had a considerable knock-on effect on house prices. They are the third most expensive of the 12 regional cities, and at £111,168 for a detached house, they are on average 45% dearer than Cardiff.

Glasgow matches Birmingham for the number of its theatres and enjoys scenery of unparalleled beauty only a short distance away in the Highlands (with good road links all round) but falls down on the relatively low uptake of higher education by its 17-year-olds. And despite its much improved image in recent years (thanks to a careful restoration of its old buildings, its catchy slogan - "Glasgow's miles better" - and the supreme accolade of being European City of Culture in 1990), the old Glasgow seems to have re-surfaced recently with alarming reports of street violence linked to drugs. Its crime figure of 139 crimes per thousand population puts Glasgow in eighth place in that table.

Leeds comes two-thirds of the way down our table at number eight. This is surprising since the premier city in Yorkshire is always held out as the shining example of a city that has escaped relatively unscathed in the current recession. Indeed, the latest unemployment figures from Employment Gazette seem to confirm this. Leeds has an unemployment rate of just 8.6%, lower than all the other regional cities with the exception of Edinburgh, and a full two points below the figure for London. But prosperity does bring its problems and Leeds' crime figure, at 148 per 1,000, could make it less attractive as a relocation spot.

Newcastle and Liverpool tie for ninth place overall. Both have surprisingly expensive housing, given their recent economic history. In fact, Newcastle emerges as the second most expensive area for a detached house after Edinburgh (outside London of course).

There are other factors which pull them down near the bottom of our league. Liverpool is a considerable distance from a national park, while its shopping facilities and educational achievements are not in the premier league. Newcastle also suffers in the education category and its crime figure is the highest of all the cities, with 159 crimes per 1,000 population.

Nottingham makes a surprise appearance at number 11 in our list. Poor shopping and crime figures count heavily against it.

And finally, Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, comes in at the bottom of the table. But the Athens of the North is probably a victim of its own success, particularly in developing a booming financial services industry. House prices are the highest outside London and travel out of the city is pretty slow. It also suffers by being a considerable distance from a national park, though the fact that the park in question is the Scottish Highlands could be of some considerable consolation.

As we have said, our attempt at quantifying benefits may ruffle native feathers and it also suggests a choice which, in the employee's case, may not be there. For most of us when it comes to the point, it's a matter of going where the money is.

For reprints of this article, contact Anne Oakley (071) 413 4336.


City Detached Crimes Miles Theatres Max Dist No. of % of

House per to in local from city shopping 17

(£)(1) 1,000 nearest auth in 30 multiples year-

pop(2) Nat area(3) mins(3) per 1,000 olds

Park(3) Urban still

pop(3) educa-


Bristol 106,471 106 14(6) 6(7) 25.0 0.40 43.4

Manchester 96,219 150 14 9 24.1 0.69 39.5

Belfast 77,350 73(5) 18(6) 4(7) 31.5 0.42 21.0(9)

Cardiff 76,143 125 24 3 22.4 0.77 44.3(8)

Sheffield 98,010 100 5(6) 4(7) 16.0 0.60 34.2

Birmingham 111,168 120 24(6) 11(7) 23.0 0.33 41.5

Glasgow 100,436 139(4) 20(6) 11(7) 24.0 0.30 23.5(4)

Leeds 102,604 148 22(6) 4(7) 19.0 0.71 37.5

Liverpool 107,348 106 40(6) 7(7) 20.0 0.41 37.0

Newcastle 113,161 159 26 4 23.7 1.30 37.3

Nottingham 85,326 153 26 5 20.5 0.29 37.6

Edinburgh 113,331 115(4) 56 3 18.8 0.64 42.8(4)

London 177,169 131 16 75 9.9 - 43.7

Sources: (1) Halifax Building Society; (2) Home Office; (3) Jones Lang Wootton; (4) Scottish Office; (5) RUC; (6) AA; (7) Regional City Councils; (8) South Glamorgan County Council; (9) DHSS Belfast (This figure is an approximation); (10) Dept of Education and Science; (11) Figure unobtainable.



=1 Manchester 31


=3 Cardiff 34


5 Sheffield 43

6 Birmingham 45

7 Glasgow 46

8 Leeds 49

=9 Liverpool 53


11 Nottingham 55

12 Edinburgh 60

Note: The figures were obtained from table 1 overleaf, by giving scores of 1-12 for each of the seven categories (1 being the top score and 12 the bottom) and adding the figures. The city with the lowest score wins. London was excluded as complete and comparable statistics are not available.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....

A CEO’s guide to smart decision-making

You spend enough time doing it, but have you ever thought about how you do...

What Tinder can teach you about recruitment

How to make sure top talent swipes right on your business.

An Orwellian nightmare for mice: Pest control in the digital age

Case study: Rentokil’s smart mouse traps use real-time surveillance, transforming the company’s service offer.

Public failure can be the best thing that happens to you

But too often businesses stigmatise it.

Andrew Strauss: Leadership lessons from an international cricket captain

"It's more important to make the decision right than make the right decision."