Research and Policy institute Centre for Cities launched ‘Outlook 1901’ on the 12th July 2012, which aimed to analyse whether we could or indeed should look to the past to help rebalance regional economies.
This article highlights some of the main areas of discussion; speakers included Peter Hall (UCL), Tristram Hunt MP (Stoke Central) and Tony Travers (LSE).
1901 marked a turning point for many of
once great regional cities. In the early 19th C the likes of England Manchester, Birmingham and
Liverpool were challenging London for supremacy,
yet by the turn of the century
had once more begun to reassert its power. Today, the gap between the capital and once
powerful regional centres is at an all time high London
History has demonstrated that there are 3 key components to a successful city, they are: a skilled workforce; improved connectivity and a diverse economy. To help re-balance the picture and ensure that regional centres become more attractive places for business and for residents, we will consider each of these components in turn.
A Skilled Workforce
The ability of a city to attract a skilled workforce is dependent upon its ability to attract high paid and stable jobs.
The presence of high paid jobs therefore leads to increased aspirations, more opportunities and higher levels of disposable incomes.
The lack of comprehensive public transport networks within
long highlighted not just the divide between themselves and the capital, but
also the increasing gap between equivalent regional centres on the European
Source: Urban rail.Net
According to Sir Peter Hall, France currently have approximately 100 new tram lines under construction. By comparison, the
has just 1 and ½. In UK
such schemes are seen not just as long term investments but also as marketing
solutions to attract new businesses and highly skilled residents. This building
boom of public transport networks is a result of cities having greater fiscal
"In the past those in the regions will have seen the need for extra capacity on the railways, need for a tramlines etc and acted on it, now they have to go to Whitehall where the civil servants making the decisions to allocate funds do not ‘see’ the need. They do however ‘see’ the need for extra capacity in London because they will be using such networks every day, leading to funds focused upon one place, where the civil servants live and work"
As the hub of this motorway network.
has indeed prospered, enjoying access routes from all across the country .
Additionally, Peter Hall emphasized the importance of developing high speed rail sooner rather than later, noting that cities within 2 hours of
A Diverse Economy
It is important that a city does not become overly reliant on a particular sector and is able to adapt quickly and attract new industry.
American electronic and pharmaceutical companies.
Source (ONS Census 2011, IPPRNORTH)
The capacity for local business and local political elites to make decisions has significantly reduced since the 19th C as power has transferred to
Centre for Cities conclude that the government should sustain investment in skills and in infrastructure. They should work with local authorities to identify targeted investment opportunities and devolve major transport scheme funding to functional economic areas.
Short term cuts in expenditure on the key drives of economic success are ultimately to result in a larger long term bills.
All in all the debate was lively and interesting and could be a springboard for future dialogue in revitalizing regional economies.
for Alsop Verrill Ltd) John Ainsworth