THE BLOG

We Must Think Cities for a Balanced Economic Recovery

28/01/2014 11:14 GMT | Updated 29/03/2014 09:59 GMT

It looks increasingly likely that the UK economy has now entered into a period of sustained recovery, following the deepest peacetime recession in the last 100 years. But as the seventh edition of Cities Outlook shows, this recovery is far from balanced, and our cities need more control if they are to fulfill their potential.

The latest data shows that London has been the primary driver of the recovery to date. Between 2010 and 2012, the capital accounted for nearly four fifths of all net new private sector jobs created. Other cities have performed strongly too - Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool all saw significant jobs growth, but others, such as Bradford and Sheffield, have continued to lose jobs, despite the national economic recovery.

London's strong performance is good for the country - it is home to over five million jobs and attracts investment from around the world. It is the UK's greatest urban success story, and nothing should be done to deliberately constrain or hold the Capital back. But the fact that London continues to pull away from the rest of the country should not be ignored.

Instead, the big focus for politicians and decision makers should be on how we can make more of our other cities, from Cambridge (the most innovative city in the UK) to Derby (with its strengths in manufacturing) or Brighton (in the top three for start-ups).

And we need to make the most of our next largest cities too, which account for over a quarter of the UK's Gross Value Added, but could contribute much more. Currently only Bristol consistently outperforms the national average on a range of important economic indicators from new business starts to skills levels.

We have already seen policy powers handed to Wales, while Scotland is likely to see greater devolution whatever the outcome of this year's independence vote. But despite having economies larger than the entirety of Wales, Greater Manchester and Greater Leeds have far less flexibility to adapt policy to the specific challenges they face, or raise their own revenues. City Deals have the potential to be an important step on the way to greater autonomy for our urban areas, but more can and should be done.

If we want our cities outside of London to fulfill their potential and play a larger role in the national economy, then they must be given the tools they need to successfully grow their economies.

The Centre for Cities is convening a new campaign to raise the profile of UK cities, and set out how to grow the economy, reduce the deficit and tackle the cost of living crisis, we must Think Cities. Visit the website now: www.thinkcities.org.uk