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This year’s Cities Outlook generated plenty of debate on a host of issues, including the report’s findings on jobs growth around the country and London’s links with other UK cities, and also wider concerns about local autonomy, inequality, political participation and immigration. Below is a summary of some of the most interesting reactions.
Novelist Andrew Martin reflected in the Observer about his own reasons for moving to London, as well as investigating how Leeds and York have been successful in attracting investment and jobs. Martin concluded with a vote of confidence for elected regional assemblies, an idea also explored by Alex Massie in The Spectator, who wondered at the reluctance to endorse elected mayors and stronger municipal governance.
Newcastle chief executive Pat Ritchie spoke at the Outlook launch event and blogged about how cities’ lack of control over their finances is “stifling local innovation and hampering the ability local decision makers to pursue local priorities”. Prof Henry Overman, Director of the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, showed sympathy for Outlook’s call for greater powers for cities, but highlighted that “a big part of London’s advantage in creating opportunities comes from its sheer size”, and that there is a limit to the number of large cities Britain can support.
The Sunday Times economics editor David Smith made several suggestions for ways to “improve the performance of the regions”, including a more entrepreneurial private sector and greater investment in infrastructure. The need for more spending on “connectivity, infrastructure and technology” was echoed by IPPR North’s Ed Cox inLeft Foot Forward, who argued that mid-sized cities in the UK are not reaching their potential because of the emphasis policymakers had on large urban hubs.
In the New Statesman Kevin Meagher went further, suggesting that the capital’s economy is over-heated and should be cooled down. Atlantic Cities editor Richard Florida disagreed, suggesting that “it makes little sense to limit the growth of London” and repeating Outlook’s recommendation that other cities should have the autonomy London has been granted.
In the Evening Standard, Simon Jenkins used Outlook’s figures on job creation and internal migration to argue that “London is beyond lucky”, and that the widening gap between rich and poor in the capital requires another look at local property taxes and local government powers.
John Gapper in the FT used Outlook’s findings about migration and commuter patterns to argue that cities around the world need to adopt a welcoming attitude to migrants, as they boost economic activity and job creation. Theo Blackwell made a similar point inProgress Online, using Outlook to highlight the need for cities to nurture their creative economies and attract people with the right skills.
Tying in with their work on populism, Michael McTernan and Claudia Chwalisz wrote in the New Statesman about the way Labour can respond to the threat from UKIP, and used Outlook to argue for “devolution of power and a more fiscally federal model for the UK” as a way to revitalise political engagement.
Alas, Outlook’s nuanced exploration of internal migration did not escape its fair share of caricature. The Time Out blog summarised the findings by comparing London to “a gigantic brain funnel sucking the graduates out of everywhere, chewing on them for a decade or so and then spitting them out into the Hampshire suburbs”. The Daily Mashused even more colourful language in suggesting that Newcastle and Manchester would be quite pleased with the migration to London. Outlook author Paul Swinney was particularly pleased with the use of a Sunderland ‘case study’ in the article, which is his home town.
Centre for Cities will continue to explore the issues raised in Cities Outlook this year, particularly through our Think Cities campaign, which brings together a range of voices making the case for how strong, independent, prosperous cities are the key to resolving the pressing economic and political challenges ahead of the next general election. Find out more by visiting thinkcities.org.uk. You can also follow the campaign on twitter and facebook.
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