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UK cities struggling when compared to their continental counterparts, writes Liam Murphy for the Liverpool Echo.

But thinktank report finds Birkenhead is one of the most 'innovative' locations in the UK

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Mayor Joe Anderson

Liverpool has been ranked in the bottom quarter of European cities for productivity - but its neighbour Birkenhead is one of the most innovative locations.

A report by thinktank the Centre for Cities found Liverpool is struggling when compared to similar cities on the continent and also has one of the highest numbers of low-skilled residents.

But while Birkenhead is ranked below Liverpool in key areas such as productivity, the report also found that the Wirral town is one of the UK's highest for innovation, based on the number of patents - the licence granted to inventors.

The report says: "In the UK, there is a clustering of innovative cities in the Greater South East, with the notable exceptions of Coventry, Derby, Birkenhead and Aberdeen."

Birkenhead generates 24 patents per 100,000 people - well over the European average of 14, and is largely due to the presence of the major Unilever research and development site in Port Sunlight.

Liverpool's average was five patents per 100,000 residents, while Cambridge and Oxford were the only two UK cities in the European top 20 for innovation.

The Centre for Cities report, 'Competing with the Continent', published today, presents an in-depth picture of how UK city economies compare to European counterparts, covering 330 cities across 17 countries.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said the report was "no surprise" and he had been highlighting these issues when in talks with the government.

He said the report shows the need for the Government to tackle the "disparities" in funding to areas such as Liverpool compared to the south east - and why he has pressed for greater devolution to the city region.

Mayor Anderson said "the real problem is growth" as well as changes to how councils are funded through business rates causing "inherent inequality".

He said: "It's that lack of how to transform cities and create jobs and growth and it's all been based on the Government's attitude to austerity, cutting funding and not supporting growth."

According to the report Liverpool is not alone - UK cities appear to be struggling when compared to their continental counterparts.

It says that Warrington is one of just three cities in the North (alongside York and Leeds) which is above the European average when it comes to the number of high-skilled residents they are home to.

The report also shows that most UK cities fall below the European urban average for skills, productivity and innovation - and says these weaknesses must be addressed to compete globally, particularly for the knowledge-intensive jobs which are increasingly important for boosting growth, employment and wages.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: "No other economy in Europe is so dependent on the performance of its cities, yet too many of the UK's urban areas are failing to realise their potential.

"In particular, the Government should ensure that any new funding commitments in the Autumn Statement focus on boosting the key drivers of growth in cities, such as skills, transport and housing."

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