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Overview of sustainable growth across London

Rob Turner Rob Turner

According to our national index, London is a successful capital city. Of the 32 London boroughs, over half (21) rank above the national average for sustainable growth. Of these, 13 are in the top 20% nationally, with three – Westminster, Camden and Richmond upon Thames – in the top 10, ranking two, three and six respectively.

Created to spark a debate on what type of economy do we want in the UK, our Sustainable growth index seeks to define and measure the components that create successful places. The measures included extend beyond the traditional economic measures of success to include components related to: prosperity; dynamism and opportunity; inclusion and equality; health, wellbeing and happiness; resilience and sustainability; and community, trust and belonging.

Economic sustainable growth not matched by levels of inclusion

Much of London’s sustainable growth is driven by its economic strengths. Eight of the top 10 most prosperous places nationally are London boroughs, with Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Camden and Southwark occupying ranks one to five. Notable is Wandsworth with the highest GVA per job in the country at £109,197 and Westminster with the highest proportion of businesses with turnover over £1 million at 20.79%. Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow and Kensington and Chelsea make up the remaining three, ranking six, seven and 10 respectively. However, despite their spatial proximity to the most prosperous places nationally, there are four boroughs that rank below the national average and a further five that rank on the national average. For example, mean weekly workplace earnings across the London boroughs range from £1,036 down to £441. London is a prosperous and dynamic city, but not everyone benefits. 

This fact is further underlined by looking at the inclusion and equality basket, which assesses issues such as the gap between the richest and poorest, and levels of deprivation. In this basket, over half of London boroughs are in the bottom 40% nationally and 11 of these are in the bottom 20%.  Only one borough – Richmond upon Thames – ranks in the top 20% nationally.

There are similar challenges in terms of health, well-being and happiness. Two-thirds of London boroughs rank in the bottom 40% and 12 of these are in the bottom 20%. Average life expectancy across the London boroughs ranges from 84.6 in Kensington and Chelsea down to 80 in the worst-performing borough, illustrating the wide disparity of health outcomes. In this basket, two areas rank in the top 20% nationally: Richmond upon Thames and Wandsworth.

A mixed picture for resilience and sustainability

In terms of resilience and sustainability – which considers human impact on the environment and the ability of the built environment to sustain growth – London’s performance is mixed. Of the 32 boroughs, Croydon, Harrow and Barnet rank two, three and seven nationally, with one-third of boroughs ranking in the top 20% nationally. However, two boroughs rank in the bottom 20%, with a further 13 ranking at or below the national average. London boroughs generally perform quite poorly on recycling rates, although there are exceptions to this such as Bexley, which ranks in the top 20% nationally.

A sense of belonging

We believe that successful places should have a lively and creative cultural life. Taking into account indicators such as voter turnout, cultural and community assets, and crime statistics, community, trust and belonging is another basket where London outperforms the rest of the country. All but five of the boroughs rank above the national average, with 18 in the top 20% nationally. Six of these areas – Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Camden Richmond upon Thames, Greenwich and Southwark – rank in the top ten. A closer look at the component measures shows that London boroughs perform notably well on cultural amenities and ethnic diversity, while weaker performance is generally due to high violent crimes and number of people aged 65 and over living alone (as a proxy for loneliness). For example, Westminster has the highest density of cultural amenities per square kilometre in the country but has the twelfth-highest rate of violent crimes by national standards.

The same is true for dynamism and opportunity, which considers levels of innovation and skill sets, with 20 boroughs outperforming the national average. Of these boroughs, 13 are in the top 20% nationally, with Westminster, Camden and Richmond Upon Thames all in the top 10. In terms of skill levels, Wandsworth has the highest proportion of residents qualified to NVQ 4 and above at 70.7%, which is considerably higher than the lowest-ranking area in London, which has a figure of 30%.

Looking at sustainable growth through a spatial lens shows that, in general, inner London boroughs perform better than outer London ones. This reflects the regeneration that has taken place in London over the last 20 years.


  1. The City of London is excluded because much of the data is unavailable for this geography

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