"All the evidence shows it is cities that drive economies for nations. It also shows that cities with greater local control do better, for their communities, their businesses and for the national economy.
Core Cities UK has a track record of success when it comes to turning these arguments into reality. We have influenced multiple Governments and powerfully made the case that it is only by giving places more freedoms that we can begin to solve some of our most intractable economic and social problems – everything from the housing crisis to the productivity puzzle.
There is a growing recognition among global policy makers that centrally-based, one-size-fits-all solutions simply don’t work. In fact, in some cases they make problems worse – creating duplication and waste.
Our work, along with others, has loosened central control and given more power to places. It has led to recognition by Government of the role the UK’s great cities can play if their potential is unleashed.
It has helped us gain some of the powers and resources we need to drive growth and productivity and put our public services on a sustainable footing.
We have all welcomed devolution and it has brought positive change. Phrases like Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse are now part of the political lexicon, business rates will be devolved to all local authorities by 2020, and many of our cities have struck deals with Government giving them greater control over budgets that were previously dictated by Whitehall."
But Theresa May’s new government must go further than the current piecemeal, deal-based, approach.
Devolution from state to local government, or from the UK parliament to devolved nations, will not, on its own, meet the challenges the UK now faces unless we are able to enact truly local, place-based, approaches.
Core Cities Cabinet is made up of the leaders and mayors of the biggest cities outside London and we are passionate about the places we represent.
We strongly believe that the answers to many of our greatest challenges lie within our cities and, ultimately, within the people who live in them.
We know that restoring confidence in democracy will not happen by taking power back from one remote political elite in Brussels and giving it to another in Westminster, Holyrood or Cardiff Bay.
People across the UK want more local control over their future, how their taxes are raised and spent, services delivered, decisions made. Building on a devolved system enables us to change the relationship between citizen and state.
And as leaders of place rather than just local authorities, we are using our democratic mandate to marshal and deploy our cities’ talent and expertise. We are already finding truly local solutions to problems like low growth and productivity, poor civic engagement, homelessness, below average educational attainment and growing skills gaps.
We call our approach Whole Place Leadership and we’ve published a number of case studies on our website – www.corecities.com- to help illustrate our arguments.
Meanwhile, Core Cities UK is supporting the RSA’s Inclusive Growth Commission, an independent inquiry chaired by former BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders.
The Commission is looking at how more people can share in the proceeds of our cities’ growth. It is uncoveringthe facts behind economic exclusion and makes a powerful argument that it is time to ‘reset’ our existing growth models.
Its recently published interim report recommends creating a policy framework that integrates economic and social policy, prioritises prevention and early intervention and provides devolution that is social as well as economic.
We are living through an important and uncertain time in our country’s history as we prepare to leave the European Union - but we’re confident that given the right levers, our cities can create a better, more competitive and more inclusive Britain.
Cllr Judith Blake
Leader of Leeds City Council and Chair of Core Cities UK
(This article first appeared in Government Business Magazine).