1: Slough — a strong economy with a weak amenity offer

Slough has one of the strongest economies of all British cities and yet it has a weak amenity offering. In both Figures 8 and 9, the city is an exception to the rule that stronger economies have more specialist and premium amenities, sitting in the bottom right quadrant. It also has the least day-to-day amenities per person of all British cities. The presence of high-skilled jobs in the city should increase spending power and so enable the city to sustain a wider range of amenities, but in Slough this is not the case.

Three factors are likely to contribute to this:

1. Unusual commuting patterns may lead to high earners spending their money elsewhere

The city has the highest share of workers commuting into the city from outside. In 201128, 62 per cent of Slough’s workforce lived outside the city while 57 per cent of residents commuted to jobs outside. For comparison, the average British city imports 42 per cent of its workers and exports just over a third of residents for work.

Not only does this swap of workers and residents take place, the occupations of each group differ. Of all the high-skilled jobs in Slough, 77 per cent are done by workers living outside the city. While 42 per cent of jobs are done by Slough residents, they do just 23 per cent of high-skilled jobs. In 2018, the average Slough worker’s weekly wage was £135 higher than the average Slough resident’s wage — the largest difference of all British cities.

As a result, while the strength of the city’s economy should increase the spending power available to sustain amenities, especially more specialist and premium options as seen in other strong cities, many of those earning higher wages leave the city after work and so are likely to spend much of their leisure time and money in other locations.

2. Concentration of jobs outside the city centre weakens high street offer

More specialist and premium amenities tend to concentrate in a city’s centre — as Figures 1, 2 and 3 show — but, in Slough, the location of jobs may limit the centre’s ability to play this role, weakening the city’s overall amenity offer.

Many of the city’s most productive, high-skilled jobs are located in the suburbs. Unlike other strongly performing cities, Slough’s city centre is not the part of the city with the highest concentration of jobs.
Instead, the trading estate is the densest location of employment, housing 23 per cent of Slough’s jobs.
The 243 hectare estate – based in Slough’s suburbs – is home to half of the city’s manufacturing jobs and 44 per cent of jobs in information and communications technology, both of which are very productive industries in Slough. As a result, the city has a very strong suburban economy.

This means that many well-paid workers in the city spend their working days in the suburbs, reducing the chance they spend time and money in amenities on the city centre’s high street.

3. Proximity to other amenity-rich locations may disperse consumers

Slough is near to many alternative destinations for consumers. London is accessible in 17 minutes by train and Windsor and Eton are even closer, all three with very strong reputations as places to visit. The capital hosts one of the highest numbers of specialist and premium amenities, houses the very largest venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and O2 Arena, and offers the widest range of amenities.

So, despite having residents with considerable disposable income, the seventh highest of all British cities29, some of their spending is likely to be dispersed in other locations. This is illustrated by the average distance travelled by visitors to spend leisure time in Slough and its neighbouring cities, as shown in Figure 12. Visitors to London travel 61km, on average, to spend time in the city compared with the 14km average for visitors to Slough.

Several other cities around London, such as Basildon and Aldershot, have similarly small average distances and weak amenity offerings despite strong economies. They too are likely affected by the pull of London.

Footnotes

  • 28 2011 Census data is used as this is the most recent source of detailed commuting data available
  • 29 ONS Gross Disposable Household Income (2017)