Preston has one of lowest rates of growth in the county, report finds

Aerials 2013'Guild Hall, Harris and Preston City Hall
Aerials 2013'Guild Hall, Harris and Preston City Hall
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PRESTON has one of the lowest rates of business growth in the country, according to new figures

The findings are contained in a report showing the gap between economies in northern and southern English cities has dramatically widened in 10 years.

A study by the Centre for Cities says for every 12 jobs created since 2004 in southern cities, only one was created in cities elsewhere.

The report comes as plans move on to devolve more powers to cities like Manchester to help create a “northern powerhouse”.

Preston ranks 58th out of 64 cities in terms of new businesses created – only 470 businesses, or 4.2 per cent.

The national average is 15.5 per cent.

Blackpool fared even worse at minus 5.3 per cent – next to bottom in the league table.

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The stark picture the report paints of the enormous gap in the fortunes of UK cities over 10 years underlines why a ‘steady as she goes’ approach must be scrapped.

“We need more powers devolved to regions to help create prosperity and ensure smaller cities and towns such as Preston and Blackpool do not fall behind as core cities grow.”

There were 26.8 per cent more businesses created in cities in the South in 2013 relative to 2004, compared to 13.7 per cent more in cities elsewhere in the UK.

The report adds: “That said, the 10 cities with the fastest growing business base have a more even split geographically. Aberdeen and Warrington saw some of the largest increases in the number of businesses, while Edinburgh and Coventry also made the top 10.

“Grimsby, which saw the largest fall, and Blackpool were the only two cities to have fewer businesses in 2013 than in 2004.”

Preston and South Ribble will benefit from the £400m City Deal which got under way last year.

But business and council chiefs have called for greater links between all northern cities – including Preston – if the so-called “northern powerhouse” is to come to fruition.

Better transport links, road projects and high-speed trains are seen as key factors in reducing the “north-south” divide.