Priorities within policy themes
The survey aimed to establish the priorities of leaders within specific policy themes.
Supply was the overwhelming priority when leaders were asked for their top priority for housing over the next five years.
Figure 3: Housing: What is the top priority for housing in your area in the next five years? (Please select one)
Overall, 90 per cent of respondents chose increasing supply, with almost half of all leaders surveyed wanting to increase supply for social rent over the next five years (49 per cent). The other 41 per cent chose a more general increase in supply.
Of the leaders surveyed, there is no clear relationship between where the city is ranked for housing affordability and the options they chose.7 Interestingly, those that identified the need for more social housing already tended to have higher than average levels of social housing in their area.
The remaining three options — increasing supply for private rent specifically, improving the quality of existing stock, or reducing the number of empty homes — were much less likely to be chosen. However, they received fairly even support from those who did see them as a priority. All the listed options were chosen by at least one survey respondent.
Leaders were asked to identify their priorities for developing or expanding transport services in their areas from a list of options. They were able to choose at least three.
Figure 4: Transport infrastructure and provision: Of the following options, what are the top three priorities for developing or expanding transport services and infrastructure for your area over the short to medium term? (Please select three)
Roads within the city (54 per cent), encouraging a switch from car use to public transport or walking (referred to as modal shift; 49 per cent), and rail outside the city (43 per cent) were the top three responses.
Among those leaders identifying modal shift as one of their priorities for transport, their cities tended to rank relatively highly on car use. A fifth of all leaders surveyed (22 per cent) chose both modal shift and active travel (for example, cycling and walking).
In recent years, many cities have aired particular concerns around people’s ability to access opportunities, as well as levels of inequality within cities. Similarly, there have been more calls for more balanced growth across the country, so that the wealth of the economy is felt not just in the most successful cities, but in those that are doing less well. These concerns all relate to the notion of ‘inclusive growth’ in some way.
Leaders were asked to identify, from a list of options provided, which two would be most important to achieving inclusive growth.
Figure 5: To achieve inclusive growth in your area, which of the following options are most important to improve? (Please select two)
Adult education and training was chosen by almost half (49 per cent) of leaders as the most important way to improve inclusivity, followed by under 18s education at just over a third of responses. Just over two-thirds of leaders picked at least one of these two forms of education.
Attracting investment is believed to be important for inclusive growth by just over a quarter of the responding leaders. Alongside this, adding the other response related to the business environment (business support or supply of jobs) raises this figure to 54 per cent.
Housing affordability was selected by 27 per cent of respondents, reflecting the need to manage the negative effects of prosperous cities such as high house-prices.
Taking leaders’ responses as a whole – there is a strong distinction between measures to stimulate growth and measures to manage the effects of growth as they relate to inclusivity. However, this did not necessarily directly relate to the strength or relative weakness of the economies of the cities.
Finally, although the option to state that inclusive growth was not a priority was provided, no city selected this.
Skills are the main factor in supporting the prosperity of people and places. This free text question asked leaders what the most important changes would be to enable them to respond to the evolving labour market in the short-to-medium term.
Figure 6: Looking ahead to the labour market over the next 5 – 10 years, what are the three most important changes required in your area to meet your evolving skills requirements?
Leaders were most likely to refer to inclusion and improving aspirations in their labour market as areas that require change; this included helping individuals overcome social and economic barriers to accessing work, supporting basic digital inclusion and improving aspirations and motivation for people across all ages.
The next most common set of responses was around improving basic workforce skills and employability, such as reducing the levels of those with low or no qualifications and improving overall employability of residents. More broadly, respondents’ answers were more likely to be based around improving supply-side factors such as skills and access to opportunities, rather than demand-side factors such as job availability.
A few leaders also highlighted devolution — particularly of apprenticeships — to allow them to meet their evolving skills requirements, alongside an increase in funding and resources for skills provision.
Addressing climate change
Leaders were also asked to set out how far they would be prepared to address climate change.
Figure 7a: This question refers to your involvement as a city leader in addressing climate change. Please rate how strongly you agree/disagree with the following statement: Cities should play a strong role in reducing the effects of climate change, even if it means sacrificing revenues and/or expending financial resources: (Please select one)
Of the leaders surveyed, 79 per cent agreed to either spending money or sacrificing revenues for the sake of mitigating climate change. Only one leader strongly disagreed with this.
Yet, among those leaders that agreed that they would spend money on tackling climate change, not all would have also allocated a part of a hypothetical additional capital grant (Figure 12) for environmental resilience and air quality (Section 3).
This question was also asked in the USA Menino Survey of Mayors in 2017.8 While the surveys took place at different times, both show a majority of urban leaders agreeing with the statement. However, in the USA, about two-thirds of mayors agreed that cities should play a role in mitigating the effects of climate change, even if it required sacrificing resources, compared to 80 per cent in the UK. A slightly higher number of mayors in the USA disagreed with the statement at 18 per cent, against 11 per cent in the UK survey.