Tomorrow the City Growth Commission launches its final report, Unleashing Metro Growth. There we bring together the themes and ideas that have developed throughout the course of our 12-month independent. Our aim was to consider how we raise the trend rate of UK growth, generating prosperity for all by harnessing the power of our city-regions.
Our research has taken us far and wide, engaging with government, business, academia and civil society organisations across the UK. We covered a range of ideas, including skills and enterprise, infrastructure and connectivity and fiscal devolution. Seen primarily through our economic lens, the Commission’s work has touched on intricacies of local and central government relationships and politics, constitutional reform and Whitehall structural and culture change. Read more
The final report of the City Growth Commission puts a figure on failure: £79billion. That is the missed economic opportunity of the UK’s most significant metros failing to grow at the same rate as the UK average. It is also worth considering the wealth generation that the UK has foregone over decades. This output gap is the price of political and governing failure.
The City Growth Commission is a highly significant contribution to a battery of heavy-duty reports over the past few years on the benefits that could be secured through the greater devolution of power, resources and responsibility. Michael Heseltine’s ‘No Stone Unturned‘, Labour’s policy review (most notably the Local Government Innovation Taskforce and the Adonis Growth Review) and now this final City Growth Commission report present a concrete analysis of the need to change. Better economic outcomes, better public services and a healthier democracy are promised. The intellectual argument has been won. The argument now moves on to the ‘how’. Read more
Leeds-based fellow Rob Greenland updates us on the progress of Leeds Empties, which the RSA recently supported with a £5,000 Catalyst grant.
You probably have an idea as to what an empty home looks like. Boarded-up, semi-derelict, with an overgrown front garden. And it’ll probably not be the only empty home on the street.
The reality, at least in Leeds, is very different. Perhaps 10% of our 5000 long-term empty homes look like this. The rest are empty – but in appearance are no different to any other house on the street.
That’s not to say they’re not a problem. They’ll be costing the owners money – and, whilst there’s a chronic housing shortage, it’s a wasted resource.
More often than not the owner would like to bring their home back into use, but they don’t know where to start. That’s where our Empty Homes Doctor service comes in. Read more
Disabled people have been talked about a lot this week. First, it emerged that a Conservative party councillor and the minister for welfare reform discussed whether certain disabled people were “worth the full [sic: minimum] wage,” with Lord Freud bandying around £2 an hour as a ballpark. Next, there were rowdy exchanges in Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions as Ed Miliband seemed to call for Freud’s dismissal from government. #LordFreud, implausibly, has trended on Twitter for three days now. Arguments swirled on last night’s BBC Question Time as everybody condemned the minister’s language while attacking Labour’s Angela Eagle MP for using the issue as a “political football”. And yet, unfortunately, disabled people’s own voices have not been at the forefront of the public discussion.
The power of inertia within government is often held to blame for a raft of failures: chronically poor IT systems, unnecessarily bureaucratic management practices, and inefficient, ineffective policy initiatives, to name just three. Returning from the last of the party conferences in Glasgow, it seems that a little inertia could go a long way. If the commitment to city-devolution is as real as each of the parties makes out, we should anticipate metros being at the heart of any next government’s economic strategy.
The consensus for city-devolution, and a number of the City Growth Commission’s pro-growth measures (e.g. improved connectivity between our major metros in the north), is both encouraging and rather surprising – given where were at the start of the Commission’s inquiry, just twelve months ago. Read more
Filed under: Education Matters, Enterprise, Social Economy
The UniverCities report will be published 14 October with a launch event in Cardiff. If you’d like to attend, register here.
The UK’s higher education sector is worth over £73 billion to the economy. As many as 757,268 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs have been created by the sector, of which 320,000 are staff directly employed by universities. In 2011, higher education contributed 2.8 percent of UK GDP. Reeling off these stats together it is clear that the higher education sector already plays a strong role in economic growth. In our upcoming report, UniverCities: the knowledge to power metro growth, we will propose ways that universities can enhance their economic impact at a local level.
As the City Growth Commission begins to round up there is a feeling that some of the most pertinent questions have been raised, if not quite put to bed: yet the devolution discussion and this series of reports is right there at the heart of the matter. The Commission has looked at the role of connectivity to the regions, addressing the skills gap, and worked to explore how governance will need to change in a more devolved future. We have also looked at the role of higher education institutions and in particular how they can help to nurture graduate entrepreneurs, keeping them within the region and fostering local growth. With the subject of devolution still fresh on mind of people all over the UK since the Scottish Referendum, one of the largest ever protests on climate change taking place in the US and the UK Party conference season underway – what now for the political rhetoric of ‘growth’? Read more
What’s clear is that we are now at the beginning of a new process of constitutional change that won’t just be about Scotland. As David Cameron has made clear, not only will new powers now have to be negotiated for Scotland, a similar process will have to take place with Wales and the English question will need to be answered.
In his statement, the PM rightly said that the English question is both about parliament and about the distribution of power across England. The good news is that we don’t need to look for new English structures to answer the big questions of power and economic imbalance. They already exist in the metropolitan city-regions that have been established from London to Newcastle. Read more
The Scot’s have decided. After a hard fought campaign by the yes camp, 84% of the Scottish have given their answer – with the majority of 55% of the electorate proclaiming that the Union is the best way forward for the long-term economic, social and environmental welfare of their country. The roadmap to Devo-Max has yet to be mapped out fully and the devil is most definitely now in the detail. An agreement will be negotiated by November, with draft legislation by January.
The Prime Minister also said this morning in his statement outside Downing Street that a ‘new and fair settlement’ will be agreed for Wales, Northern Ireland and England. The Scottish independence question has brought the West Lothian Question to the fore and stirred a changing face of English politics. Devolution has been a hotly debated topic across the pubs, living rooms and streets of the UK, creating a new wave of interest in the concept of nationhood and the practical implications for where political and economic power should lie. What does Devo-Max in Scotland mean for England? Read more
The City Growth Commission takes a predominately economic approach. As Jim O’Neill, the chair of the Commission, rightly points out in his foreword of our latest report Powers to Grow: City finance and governance:
“What happens in the likes of Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and all of the other 15 metros we defined in our first paper will be more important for UK economic growth than what happens in the rest of Scotland combined”
While the Scottish independence referendum has sparked a new debate in government and across the country about the importance of local decision-making and accountability, the focus on economics is vital when talking seriously about devolving powers down from central government, given the risks associated with devolution, particularly in this age of austerity. Read more