According to our national index, London is a vibrant capital city (See map 1). Of the 32 London boroughs,1 over half (20) rank above the national average for vibrancy. Of these, 14 are in the top 20% nationally, with three – Camden, Westminster and Richmond upon Thames – in the top 10, ranking two, three and five respectively.
Created to spark a debate on what type of economy do we want in the UK, the Vibrant Economy Index ranks the 324 English local authority areas against six broad socio-economic objectives for sustainable and inclusive growth.
Economic vibrancy not matched by levels of inclusion
Much of London’s vibrancy is driven by its economic strengths. Eight of the top 10 most prosperous places nationally are London boroughs, with Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Islington and Southwark occupying ranks one to five. Notable is Tower Hamlets with the highest GVA per job in the country at £105,548 and Westminster with the highest proportion of businesses with turnover over £1 million at 20.57%. Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow and Hillingdon make up the remaining three, ranking six, seven and 10 respectively. However, despite their spatial proximity to the most prosperous places nationally, there are five 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 £952 down to £469. 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, half of London boroughs are in the bottom 40% nationally and 10 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, wellbeing and happiness. Two-thirds of London boroughs rank in the bottom 40% and 11 of these are in the bottom 20%. Average life expectancy across the London boroughs ranges from 84.9 in Kensington and Chelsea down to 79.6 in the worst-performing borough, illustrating the wide disparity of health outcomes. In this basket, two areas rank in the top 20% nationally: Kensington and Chelsea and Richmond upon Thames.
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 and Barnet rank one and three nationally, with one-third of boroughs ranking in the top 20% nationally. However, four boroughs rank in the bottom 20%, with a further eight 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 vibrant 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. Two-thirds of the boroughs rank above the national average, with 15 in the top 20% nationally. Four of these areas – Kensington and Chelsea, Camden, Richmond upon Thames and Westminster – rank two, three, four and seven respectively. 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 third-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 26 boroughs outperforming the national average. Of these boroughs, 17 are in the top 20% nationally, with Westminster, Camden and Islington all in the top 10. In terms of skill levels, Richmond upon Thames has the highest proportion of residents qualified to NVQ 4 and above at 71.6%, which is considerably higher than the lowest-ranking area in London, which has a figure of 28%.
Looking at vibrancy 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.
The City of London is excluded because much of the data is unavailable for this geography