Wages have dropped faster in York than in any other British city.

Yet residents have seen the greatest increase in fees by their council.

Those are two of the findings in the Cities Outlook 2019 report, just published by the Centre For Cities.


It finds that Northern English cities have been hardest hit by austerity. But it’s not all negative – on jobs and qualifications, York is doing well.

Here are the most pertinent findings for the city.

1. Wages are dropping fast

Altogether 32 cities saw their weekly salaries decrease in real terms between 2017 and 2018.

York recorded the largest fall at -£65 per week, followed by Southampton (-£47 per week) and Swindon (-£37 per week). These three cities are all below the national average (of £555) in real weekly earnings.

And York is 59th out of 63 of cities with the lowest weekly workplace earnings.

Average workplace wages

10 cities with the lowest weekly workplace earnings

RankCityAv weekly wages 2018 £Av weekly wages 2017 £Real wage growth, 2017-18 £
54Norwich4694618
55Swansea468475-7
56Leicester467491-24
57Stoke465467-2
58Doncaster4594581
59York449514-65
60Huddersfield4434359
61Birkenhead4424384
62Southend43942217
63Wigan438446-9
United Kingdom5555514

2. York council has cut spending

Between 2009 and 2018 only two cities have increased spending: Oxford and Luton.

Councils elsewhere have cut back significantly – Barnsley is the hardest hit city, with a reduction in spending of 40%.

City of York Council has cut back too – by 10.4%. The national average is -14.3%.

3. But social care spending is up – a bit

The one area where almost all councils are increasing spending is social care. York, with a 4.2% increase between 2009 and 2018 has increased it less than the national average (7.8%).

4. We’re paying out the most

Another way for councils to balance the books is by charging to access services.

Fees for planning, housing, transport and culture have seen the biggest increases.

And York is coining it in. The report states:

  • York has seen the largest increase in sales, fees and charges as a share of overall spending of any English city, with an increase of 12 percentage points.

    This meant that a quarter of its spending was raised from this source in 2017/18, more than any other city.

5. We have below average productivity

The North does worse than the South on worker productivity because “jobs in cities in the Greater South East tending to be in higher- skilled occupations than elsewhere”.

The average GVA (Gross Added Value) per worker in 2017 was £57.6K. London had the highest (£80.5K) and Hull the lowest (£41.4K).

York’s GVA per worker was £48K.

6. It’s better news on the jobs front

No.CityClaimant
count rate %
1Aldershot0.7
2Cambridge0.8
3Exeter0.9
4Edinburgh1.3
5Norwich1.3
6York1.3
7Portsmouth1.4
8Bristol1.5
9Milton Keynes1.5
10Reading1.5

York had the sixth lowest Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant count rate in November 2018 with 1.3%.

It was one of only two northern cities to make it into the top ten, the other being Edinburgh. The UK average is 2.3%.

And York also makes it into the top ten cities for private jobs growth. Between 2016 and 2017, these jobs grew from 73,000 to 76,000 – see the table below.

Private sector jobs growth

10 cities with the highest net private sector jobs growth

No.City% change 2016-17 (%)Net job gains
1Northampton6.76,500
2Middlesbrough6.27,500
3Cambridge5.73,500
4Doncaster5.44,500
5Hull5.14,500
6Newcastle4.913,500
7Bradford4.76,500
8Leeds4.414,500
9Huddersfield4.45,000
10York4.13,000

7. We’re mostly qualified

York has the sixth-lowest percentage of residents with no qualifications at 4.4% (Belfast does worst with a rate of 16.1%, and the national average is 8%).

8. But build few new houses

York is in the bottom ten of cities with the lowest housing growth. It comes in at 56th out of 65 with a growth of 0.4%.

Between 2016 and 2017 York built just 380 houses.

The national average growth is 0.9%.