Cities outlook: Key to growth is diversification

Last week, I attended the launch of think-tank the Centre for Cities’ annual report on the economic state of the country’s cities, Cities Outlook 2011. You can read my take on the report, which suggests Northern cities will remain vulnerable to public spending cuts for the next four years, here. Here’s a round-up of some other interesting points raised by those who attended at last week’s launch.

1) Anthony Browne, policy director to the mayor of London: “London fell into recession slower than other parts of the country and is moving out of it quicker than some – the City, for instance, has bounced back. But it is easy for the government to be complacent and forget that London is very much a tale of two cities: the ‘other’, less prosperous, side of London has some of the highest rates of poverty in the UK, some of the highest unemployment levels and some of the most deprived neighbourhoods. It will be affected by public spending cuts as much as other cities.”

2) Mike Emmerich, chief executive of Manchester’s Commission for the New Economy: “The biggest cities – the ones that have a critical mass and are already thriving economic hubs – are where the market is going to create the jobs. People will continue travelling to these cities from hinterlands whose economies have not improved much because of long-term structural flaws – so the Government would be wrong to attempt to create jobs in those areas. It should continue to invest in ‘travel to work’ policies instead.”

3) Dave Smith, chief executive of Sunderland City Council: “The key to achieving sustainable economic growth is diversification. Any structural dependence on one particular industry is bound to make a city vulnerable. In the 1960s, the North East was over-reliant upon shipbuilding, in the ’70s it was coal mining. Now, it is over-dependent upon manufacturing, which is why the council is trying to invest in small businesses and the knowledge economy, to try and boost economy recovery in the region.”

Read the first column by Centre for Cities’ chief executive Alexandra Jones in the current issue of Planning magazine.

  • Anonymous

    Come on are you saying that the small towns should just shut up shop on business and become dormitory communter towns?You assume that everybody in the smaller towns can get these jobs in the city that are well paid justifying the travel time and costs?What about the lower skilled workforce, you giveing up on them?Developers will always gravitate to the big cities how can places like Oldham, Rochdale, Barnsley or Halifax compete with Leeds or Manchester?They can't, they are the places that need public money to make schems viable not the big cities.

  • Liane Hartley

    I agree, the key is enabling these underperforming places to reinvent themselves according to new economic reality. That means supporting people who have good ideas and helping them turn them into viable businesses. These places need to grow according to their individual strengths, local specificity and relationships/networks with their neighbours not because they have tried to become like some big city down the road or because its talented and creative residents have been tempted elsewhere? We need to recognise that growth is not just a function of wealth generation but how we cultivate wealth and what usses we put it to? We need to getalot more imaginative about the way we plan for growth but also how we use the latent talent, experience and resources of our communities? Why do we treat them like disembodied random elements? They ARE the city and make it work. We should provide a stronger role for people to participate and be involved in growth not just be bystanders of it.

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