Investing in Growth Cities: Fulfilling the economic potential of the Greater South East cities

In order to unlock the potential of cities and increase private sector growth, the Government will need to adopt a radical new approach to economic development.

Report published on 12 December 2011 by Tom Bolton and Zach Wilcox

The dominant political discussion in the UK is about how to stimulate the economy and create jobs, and the Chancellor’s 2011 Autumn Statement delivered particularly gloomy news with the Office of Budget Responsibility substantially downgrading its growth forecasts. Although growth remains elusive, it is cities that represent the economic future, and they are the places from which recovery will emerge. The concentration in cities of people, economic activity, productivity, innovation and enterprise equips them with the greatest potential to generate growth and jobs.

But not all cities are equally well-placed to grow.  Some are struggling with long-term economic restructuring and need to replace lost jobs before they can reach a position from which they can grow their economies.  Private Sector Cities looked at private sector jobs growth in cities between 1998 and 2008 and ranked cities as buoyant, stable or struggling based on their performance.  It concluded that, while private sector jobs grew in cities across the country, the largest grouping of buoyant cities over that period, with growing economies and new private sector employment, was in the Greater South East (GSE).  The Greater South East cities created approximately 338,000 private sector jobs in the 10 years prior to the recession, 27 percent of England’s total private sector jobs growth.

This report looks in more detail at how cities in the Greater South East – including Brighton, Colchester, Ipswich, Luton, Medway, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Southampton and Southend-on-Sea – have grown over the past 10 years, and what the key opportunities for future growth are.

This work is supported by Regional Cities East

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Senior Consultant, City Economics at Arup