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It’s time to talk about towns — an untapped opportunity to drive growth across the UK

Towns have the greatest potential to unlock economic growth. Towns where hard-working local enterprises are delivering consistently for communities and incubating new ideas.

In a first-of-its-kind report, together with the Social Market Foundation and the British Retail Consortium, we have leveraged Visa data insights to better understand the economic vitality of our towns and how it can be bolstered. An analysis of more than 900 towns across five economic indicators — economic prosperity, people and skills, infrastructure, businesses environment, and sustainability — found remarkable characteristics which would not only benefit local businesses and people, but also the whole U.K. economy.

Towns including Ramsgate, Scarborough and Merthyr Tydfil have a strong sense of community and rate among the happiest places to live in the U.K.

Towns like Cheltenham and Ipswich, for instance, have made huge strides in attracting high skills and talent as a result of the presence of headquarters of major institutions like GCHQ and the University of Suffolk. At the same time, towns including Ramsgate, Scarborough and Merthyr Tydfil have a strong sense of community and rate among the happiest places to live in the U.K., however greater investment in skills would unlock growth opportunities for those local economies.   

Towns like Bury, West Bromwich and Stevenage all exhibit good infrastructure, transport links and pro-business environments.

We also discovered that around 100 towns across the U.K. can be identified as demonstrating real economic promise. Towns like Bury, West Bromwich and Stevenage all exhibit good infrastructure, transport links and pro-business environments. Building on these strong foundations will be vital if we are to unleash the potential currently locked away in these towns.

What we can also learn from this study is that all towns should not be treated as homogenous. In fact, our towns are incredibly diverse and unique from one town to another in what they offer their communities and what they need to succeed. If provided with the best policy frameworks, and the right investment, our towns have the capabilities to strengthen their economic prospects.

At Visa, we’re committed to playing our part in realizing the economic potential of our towns.

At Visa, we’re committed to playing our part in realizing the economic potential of our towns. Every day we strive to uplift everyone everywhere by being the best way to pay and be paid. At the heart of all we do is delivering an innovative, reliable, and secure payments network for businesses and consumers, no matter where they are.

Let’s Talk About Towns is where the Visa mission and ambition for supporting local economies to prosper come together. This is the first step in a broader program that hopes to convene a conversation with policymakers and businesses about how we can drive commerce, entrepreneurship, and business-led growth, ensuring no-one is left behind.

We are doing this because we know that when towns do well, everyone can benefit. This means more businesses on the high street, more jobs for local people, greater market access which contributes to home-grown growth, and more opportunities for communities to set up local initiatives that serve local people.

In navigating the economic headwinds ahead, businesses, together with policymakers, can look to U.K. towns to increase prosperity for communities across the whole of the country.

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