Introduction

Climate change and transport are emerging priorities

City leaders work every day to solve issues affecting residents and businesses, such as improving public transport, reducing toxic air, ensuring housing affordability and helping make sure people can get good jobs. They are important actors when it comes to addressing these crucial challenges and provide accountability to local residents and businesses. Hence, city leaders’ voices need to be heard and should be taken seriously if the government wants those issues close to families and businesses to be properly addressed.

In 2018, Centre for Cities and Arup conducted the first Urban Voices survey to better understand the challenges UK city leaders are facing. The survey also provides a platform for city leaders across the country to voice priorities and concerns.

This survey’s goal is to shed light on how our city leaders see the challenges, opportunities, and priorities facing their places. By giving city leaders the voice to communicate their concerns and aspirations, this survey opens up a discourse about how to achieve a better relationship between local government and Westminster to make a positive difference in cities and to the country as a whole. The upcoming election creates an opportunity for national parties to set out how they will help city leaders address these shared issues.

Last year, city leaders called for the devolution of more powers and funding to help them solve problems locally. This year, leaders are most concerned by air pollution, climate change and finding ways to fund growing demand for housing and public services. For example, leaders reported that national policy barriers, poor relations with government ministers and a lack of resources are significant obstacles to providing quality services, public transport and acting on climate change at a local level.

How to read this report

The survey received 32 responses out of 168 leaders of councils in UK cities. This is a relatively similar response to the 2018 City Leaders Survey. While this response rate will give us a good picture of what city leaders are thinking, it does not allow us to discuss trends between years with statistical significance. However, we do present the results from similar topics across both years to understand responses in the context of one another.