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My time as Chair has seen the UK's Core Cities face one of their biggest ever tests as Covid 19 swept across the UK. While the Covid crisis is by no means over, there are encouraging signs of recovery in our cities as commuters and shoppers head back to our shops and offices after two years of restrictions.

I am immensely proud of our city councils and their communities who stepped up to the plate as never before, making sure the vulnerable were looked after and people had the advice and support they needed during what was an extremely frightening and dangerous time. The local state proved itself to be more efficient, fast moving and often more compassionate than a top down Whitehall machine.

As my time as Chair ends, there are signs that our messages about the power and potential of cities are finally getting through to Government. We welcomed the Levelling Up White Paper because it endorsed some of our key arguments - that cities are drivers of regional economies and that more power to place through devolution has the potential to transform places both economically and socially.

However, Government did not give any financial commitments and Core Cities UK will continue to press Treasury to accept the basic economic argument, that large-scale investment is necessary if we are to reap the rewards of a greener, healthier and more equal country.

During 2021, Core Cities UK proved its ability to think differently, coming together with colleagues from London Councils and UK Connected Places Catapult to form the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission. This is a great example of our cities 'getting on and doing', making connections and coming up with practical proposals to solve a national problem. I was proud to travel to COP 26 in the great Core City of Glasgow to launch our second stage report and I look forward to seeing what the commission does next.

Last year also saw us begin our U7 (Urban 7) initiative, bringing together city networks like Core Cities from each of the G7 nations whilst the UK held the G7 Presidency. Chairing this inaugural session of urban networks from across the globe, I was struck by how much we have in common despite our vastly different national landscapes. The G7 U7 will meet again in 2022 and will continue to make the case for cities to the world's most powerful presidents and prime ministers.

There are other several other examples of our work that I could mention. What links it all is our group's optimistic vision of a better United Kingdom and our immense pride and passion for the places and communities we represent. This passion and belief is at the heart of Core Cities UK and I know it will continue to define our work over the years ahead.