Alex Jones, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities
The Government must empower Core Cities to fulfil their potential
The critical role that UK cities play in the national economy is long-established, with urban areas accounting for 60% of economic output and 59% of jobs across the country, despite making up only 9% of land.
It’s clear then that for the UK to prosper in the coming years, our cities and city regions need to be firing on all cylinders. This is particularly important for major urban areas like the Core Cities. The scale of these places mean they have the potential to generate high levels of jobs and economic growth – benefitting not only those living in the rural, suburban and urban areas within these city-regions, but the UK economy as a whole. For example, despite only growing its tax base by 1% over the past decade, Manchester generated nearly as much tax revenue as the nine fastest growing small and medium sized UK cities combined. Imagine the contribution if growth was at 2 or 3%, for all the core cities.
However, our biggest cities currently lack the powers that would help them to drive growth and realise their economic potential. The Government has taken some early steps to do this through its devolution agenda but much more needs to be done if Core Cities are to realise their potential.
As the new Government develops its plan to raise prosperity across the country in the coming years, it is vital it builds on progress to date and puts the Core Cities and city regions at the heart of its new industrial strategy.
For places which have already secured devolution deals and are set to get metro-mayors in May 2017, the Government should ensure that the new mayors have the powers, investment and political support they need to deliver for local people, agreeing further deals and devolution of powers over the years ahead.
Similarly, in Scotland and Wales, the devolved assemblies should consider how they can empower city leaders in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff, building on the city deals already in place.
Giving major cities and city regions more control over their funding and policy choices will help them to tackle the issues that matter most to their economies, including housing, skills and transport. Making the most of the Core Cities’ potential will be crucial in helping the Government realise its vision of raising prosperity across the country.