When looking at the roles that different places play in their wider economies, there are two arguments that come to the fore. The first is that a focus on cities does nothing for their surrounding towns and villages, which have been ‘left behind’. The first briefing in this series showed this not to be true – cities provide prosperity for their broader areas.1 The second is that a focus on the city centre of big cities (as advocated by Centre for Cities and others)2 does little for struggling parts of the city, such as Oldham in Manchester’s case or West Bromwich in Birmingham’s case.

It is this second question that this briefing looks at by looking at Manchester and Birmingham. Currently it is the case that some parts of both cities are able to better access the prosperity generated in the city centre much better than other parts. However, this is because, while successful in their own right, both city centres are currently too small. London’s experience shows that larger, more successful city centres should bring prosperity to most parts of both cities. And so better performing city centres in both cities are an important part of improving the outcomes of people who live across them.


  • 1 Swinney P (2023), Does trickle out work? How cities benefit their surrounding towns, London: Centre for Cities
  • 2 See for example Swinney P (2021), So you want to level up? London: Centre for Cities and Resolution Foundation, London School of Economics and Centre for Cities (2023), A Tale of Two Cities, London: Resolution Foundation