Aldershot has come out on top in research that shows how content people are in comparison with towns and cities across the UK.
The study by charity Centre for Cities plots data for 64 Primary Urban Areas (PUAs) – built up areas including towns and cities. For Aldershot’s case, the analysis included the Rushmoor and Surrey Heath area.
Last year the Office of National Statistics produced data on wellbeing for the first time , and Aldershot had the biggest increase, as well as the joint highest life satisfaction score for the 2011/12 to 2012/13 period.
There was no geographical pattern in the data, which recorded an increase in wellbeing for 45 of the 64 PUAs, and the report concedes that the results are very much subjective as they rely on individual perceptions.
Rushmoor Borough Council chief executive Andrew Lloyd said: “We strongly welcome the report and the endorsement of the area’s clear strengths and attributes.
“It provides some good reading and gives some reassurances about the strengths of the local economy. But we're not complacent. We recognise that there are areas that need to be addressed.”
Aldershot also ranked first for private sector jobs growth, recording an increase of 6,700 jobs (from 71,800 to 78,500) between 2011 and 2012.
This equates to a 9.4% increase, significantly ahead of second-placed Peterborough with 5.4% and the UK average of 0.1% growth.
Only Crawley beat Aldershot for its ratio of private to public sector jobs. The Aldershot PUA had 78,500 private sector jobs and 19,000 public sector jobs in 2012 and Mr Lloyd said the level of job growth was particularly pleasing.
Aldershot was one of only four PUAs where earnings grew by more than £20 per week between 2012 and 2013. Aldershot’s employed population earned £21 more on average, with the weekly wage being £578.
In the Centre for Cities report, the Aldershot area also performed strongly for it number of business start-ups. There were 48.5 business starts per 10,000 population in 2012 – ranking Aldershot sixth of the 64 PUAs – compared with 45.7 closures.
The number of businesses in Aldershot did, however, decrease by 1% between 2011 and 2012, but its business stock of 393.9 per 10,000 population was only bettered by London, Brighton and Reading.
This means that, despite concerns, particularly in Aldershot town centre over empty units, the PUA’s economic prospects appear to be promising.
Aldershot also appeared fifth for its innovative areas, calculated by the number of patents granted for its respective population.
Dr Steve Musson, a regional economy expert at the University of Reading, said: “The area benefits from hosting some big blue-chip companies, and businesses are attracted by the area’s strong transport links.
“It’s close enough to the capital to share in some of London’s success, but benefits from more affordable homes and an overall higher quality of life.”
Set up in 2005, Centre for Cities aims to understand how and why economic growth and change takes place in Britain’s cities through its annual outlook.
This year’s research suggested that the gap between London and the rest of the UK is widening, as the capital has created 10 times more private sector jobs than any other PUA since 2010.
It showed that nearly a third of those who moved from their PUA headed for London.
Despite recording the third-lowest rate of Job Seeker’s Allowance claimants, the disparity between Aldershot’s best and worst-performing areas was stark. Some areas contained no claimants, while others had a rate of 4.1%.
This was the third largest gap of the PUAs and is further evidence of the need to tackle deprivation in Rushmoor, something the council is working on through the Rushmoor Strategic Partnership .
The partnership, whose members include the council, housing association First Wessex and Hampshire Constabulary, among others, is working to improve the prospects of those living in disadvantaged areas through It and employment skills courses, education on healthy eating and continuing with successful work experience schemes.