The initial response to Covid-19 from across the public sector was heroic, but Core Cities UK soon realised that we needed to look ahead to the medium and long term too. We were one of the first organisations to start thinking about what recovery might look like and what Government needed to do if it is to make post Covid-19 levelling up a reality.
That is why during 2020 we kept up a steady stream of policy work, directed at Government, that pointed out where the local state could do better and act quicker. It is why we worked with world leading economists OECD to produce a report that aims to help Government reform and decentralise the UK state, making it fairer and more productive.
Put simply, top-down solutions will not work given the scale and complexity of the challenge we now face. The future is local and lies in our places and our people.
During 2020 we continually called for Government to recognise the value of cities not just for their own economic importance, but as key to the success of economic networks of which they are part, and on which they rely. Economic solutions need to fully understand the connections between cities, towns and rural areas to be effective, taking a ‘both-and’ not ‘either-or’ approach.
Core Cities UK has spent two decades arguing for greater devolution. There is a strong moral and economic case to bring decisions closer to the people. But we recognise that devolution by itself is not a magic bullet. It will help, but Core Cities UK believes we must also invest properly in a local state that has been left reeling by this crisis, hit by declining revenues and mushrooming spending. We must provide a decent foundation if we are to build back better, but also fairer.
At time of writing many of our cities are dipping into reserves just to keep vital services going. This is not sustainable and will not produce the long-lasting change we need.
Covid-19 has accelerated the challenges many of our citizens already faced, from transport, to skills to healthcare. It has changed our city centres, altered our working patterns and accelerated shifts in our economies.
But on the future of cities, the evidence is clear: there will be some challenges, particularly for urban centres which will require support to adapt, but the economic scale and contribution of cities remain unchanged, and are fundamental to the UK economy.
Our work programme for 2020 reflected the all-encompassing nature of the crisis. Our work touched on culture and hospitality, on post Brexit trade, the future of city centres, supporting job creation and skills programmes, and new thinking on financing mechanisms to deliver recovery. We responded to dozens of submissions to Government on everything from Green Book to the National Data Strategy.
Covid-19 has wrought great damage, and challenges us to reshape our future. The opportunity is to unleash the potential of our cities to innovate, grow business, trade and jobs across wider areas. To build a sustainable, fairer economy, creating quality places where people feel safe, valued and welcomed, and for our cities to shine on the world stage as part of Global Britain.
Our cities’ best days lie ahead, and we will continue to fight for them over the year to come