Britain’s left behind towns sent two seismic shockwaves through the political consensus in recent years. First, when many voted to leave the EU. Second when the so called ‘Red Wall’ of Labour seats crumbled at the 2019 General Election.
These changes sparked debate about how the Government should support these so-called ‘forgotten’ towns to reverse decades of decline.
Some argue that the Brexit vote and fall of the Red Wall was the result of people in towns registering unhappiness at the perceived favouring of cities by policy makers. This is an unhelpful argument that benefits neither towns nor cities, and risks fuelling a culture war between the two.
The reality is that towns are not islands, their fortunes are connected both to the national economy and also to nearby cities. In fact many towns, particularly those in the South East, perform very well economically.
People living in towns close to cities have better employment outcomes than those in rural areas. They benefit from both jobs in the city and those created in the town itself due to its proximity to the city.
But this is only part of the picture. Employment outcomes in towns surrounding economically weaker cities such as Liverpool, Swansea and Newport are far worse than in towns surrounding more prosperous cities such as London or Bristol.
Any economic policy that aims to support towns without considering how their closest cities are performing is doomed to fail.
However, successful cities do not automatically suck jobs and investment away from towns. Towns close to highly productive cities are better at attracting high-skilled business investment, jobs and firms, and they have lower employment rates.
In contrast, towns close to less successful cities have higher unemployment rates and lower economic outcomes. Therefore, the economic success of Britain’s cities is closely linked to the success of the whole country.
Latest analysis on why strong cities are crucial for levelling up towns.
Critics who attack city policy as ‘trickle out economics’ are hurting the people they are trying to help.
Ignoring the relationship between cities and towns makes it harder to bring greater prosperity to struggling towns.
Why levelling up towns must mean increasing investment in skills, housing stock and the attractiveness of a place – in conjunction with improving the performance of cities.
Why transport policy shouldn’t be at the core of the levelling up agenda.
Why investment in rural towns should focus on skills, health and social infrastructure.
Senior Analyst Kathrin Enenkel on the relationship between UK cities and towns and the implications this has for people and policy makers.
The economic prospects of towns and cities around the UK are inseparable. Our work looks at the 63 largest cities and towns in the UK, while shedding new light on how the success of cities affects the prosperity of towns that surround them.
The political imperative for investing in the North and Midlands is clear from last month’s election. But the Government must work with economic realities if it is to deliver for the voters who delivered its majority.
The idea that recent growth of cities has come at the expense of towns has become a mantra. The problem is, it isn’t true.
Will Jennings, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Southampton and co-founder of Centre for Towns, unpacks the findings of his recent co-authored article “The Politics of Levelling Up”.
There’s much to be achieved in the Red Wall if policy focuses on skills and health outcomes, but attracting high skilled jobs will be much harder.
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Challenging the misleading political narrative that pits towns against cities, Director of Policy and Research Paul Swinney sets out the role of cities in generating prosperity for surrounding places.
Andrew is joined by Centre for Cities’ Paul Swinney to explain the benefits to towns and villages of having a thriving city as a neighbour.
The underperformance of many of the UK’s largest cities hurts not only residents in them but the towns and villages around them too.
Home to many hundreds of thousands of jobs, Leeds plays a central role in Yorkshire's economy. But just how reliant are high streets in the city's surrounding towns on its success?
While it has been frequently claimed that the shift to home working has been a boon for suburban high streets, the data tells a different story
The old Use Class Order created and reinforced divides between cities, the new reforms put cities on a level playing field.
Cities Outlook 2022 welcomed some of the country’s most prominent local leaders to reflect on the recovery of their high streets and city centres through various lenses
How have two years and three lockdowns changed our shopping habits, and what does this mean for the future of our city and town centres?
Our analysis shows that the city centres that were the strongest performers pre-pandemic were hardest hit by Covid-19
Cities Outlook 2022 looks in-depth at the state of UK high streets to get a sense of the short-term impact of the pandemic on Britain's town and city centres and the long-term consequences and implications this has for the Government’s levelling up agenda.