Cardiff: The UK’s new no.1 city

Cardiff residents are blessed with the best quality of life in Britain, following a year of falling unemployment and rising disposable income – according to new MoneySuperMarket research.

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Our annual Quality of Living Index compares the UK’s 12 largest cities in terms of factors such as:

-House price growth

-The cost of renting

-Average salaries


-General life satisfaction

For 2014 Welsh capital, Cardiff came out on top, knocking Bristol off its perch from last year and beating off the likes of London and Edinburgh.

2014 Rank (2013)


UK 12 largest cities


1 (3)




2 (8)




3 (12)




4 (7)




5 (1)




6 (5)




7 (2)




8 (6)




9 (11)




10 (9)




11 (4)




12 (10)





While it was ‘ardderchog’ (excellent) news for the Welsh, the picture in the midlands was less rosy.

Birmingham came last on our list this year, suffering the highest unemployment rates and the second-lowest score for life satisfaction.

Winners and losers

Of the 12 cities surveyed (listed in the table), the average cost of living was lowest in Cardiff, ringing in at £359 a week.

The Welsh capital also had one of the lowest unemployment rates at 8.1% and recorded the second-highest growth in disposable income (3.7%) when compared to last year’s survey, in which it placed third overall.

Bristolians, on the other hand, whose city took top spot last year, felt the squeeze worse than any other city. The cost of living there rose to £430 a week – significantly above the survey’s average of £391. And unsurprisingly, Bristol also saw a fall in disposable income from 3.3% in 2013, to 2.8% this year.



Did you know? House prices in London are almost 26% higher than they were this time last year!

Belfast and Bradford were the biggest improvers on last year when it comes to quality of living.  Belfast now takes second place (up from 8th last year) while Bradford has climbed up to third place from the bottom spot of 12th last year.

Did you know? Birmingham has the highest unemployment level (13.1%) of all 12 of the UK’s major cities…

A tale of 12 cities

MoneySuperMarket consumer finance expert, Dan Plant, says that while the economy is showing signs of recovery, some parts of the country are benefiting more than others.

 “On a national level, the economy is performing well. Big contributors to that are growth in salary, disposable income and house prices, while unemployment has fallen. However, the precise story differs city by city.

“While some cities, like Cardiff, Belfast and Bradford, measure up well against many of the indicators, others are not feeling the benefit of the rising economic tide.

“For instance, in Liverpool the unemployment rate increased, in Sheffield average salaries fell in real terms and, in Birmingham, the cost of renting increased by a huge 26% compared to an average 12% across all cities.

Dan Plant continued:  “Residents of Cardiff are benefiting from lower unemployment levels, and a rise in disposable income growth over the last 12 months. However, as we have seen with Bristol, this position can change as a strong local economy can often lead to an increase in house prices and rental costs – resulting in a fall in disposable income growth.”


  Average rent prices per calendar month   House price changes/Property market activity Salary Unemployment rate Cost of living (weekly exp.) Life satisfaction Disposable income growth
UK average   £825***  11.5%  £21,905  7.2%  £414  7.45  3.3%
Average of 12 cities   £951  9.0% £23,038  9.30%   £391 7.34   3.0%
Cardiff   £873  9.3% £22,312  8.1%   £359 7.40   3.7%
Belfast  £686  8.4% £19,239 6.8%   £423  7.28  3.8%
Bradford   £490  7.0% £20,012  10.8%   £366 7.39   3.6%
London   £2,785  25.8% £30,479  8.2%   £486 7.26   3.4%
Bristol   £914  9.8% £23,355  7.2%   £430 7.35   2.8%
Leeds   £882  7.0% £22,677  8.9%   £366 7.47   3.0%
Edinburgh   £1,213  5.4% £25,528  6.6%   £376 7.51   2.7%
Manchester   £833  7.1% £24,492  10.0%   £334 7.16   3.2%
Sheffield   £705  7.0% £20,563  10.0%   £366 7.42   2.8%
Glasgow   £659  5.4% £23,119  9.8%  £376 7.30   2.3%
Liverpool   £571  7.1% £22,246  12.1%   £384 7.30   2.6%
Birmingham   £756  8.2% £22,431  13.1%   £383 7.22   2.6%

Did you know? Of the 12 cities, you’ll find the cheapest rent in Bradford at £490 a month…

The Scotland and Westminster question

With the Scottish independence referendum around the corner on September 18, the question of just how united the Kingdom actually is has been thrown into focus. And our Quality of Living Index shows that Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh have a very different economic picture to the rest of the UK.

Both cities have seen higher-than-average rent increases during 2014 (20% in Glasgow, 23% in Edinburgh) and slower house price growth (both recorded 5% growth, compared to the average of 9%).

London, meanwhile, continues to be a ‘bubble’ economy in its own right. Average house price growth far outstrips that of the rest of the country – rising by 26%, compared to the national average of 9%. As you’d expect, then, London also has highest average rent prices of all 12 cities – with a whopping average of £2,785 per month.

‘Struggling to make ends meet’

Dan Plant said: “Quality of living in the UK has suffered in recent years and, despite positive outlooks for the UK economy, many households are still struggling to make ends meet each month.

“This year’s report shows a clear divide still exists between increases in salaries and the rising cost of living. Rent price hikes and low disposable income growth are key factors here, and help explain why the top 12 cities have moved around the Quality of Life Index so much.”

He adds: “The position could change further with expected rises in Bank of England Base Rate which could impact disposable income levels, particularly in cities where the cost of housing is high such as London and Edinburgh.”

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