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Cities economies are vital to our recovery [Jan. 19th, 2010|01:12 pm]
The 2010 Cities Outlook demonstrates that although we have faced a global recession, the lasting routes out of it will be local and regional: jobs, infrastructure and skills need a local framework.

The Leeds economy will be vital to the national recovery. To ensure that Leeds is at the forefront of the recovery we need to build on our strengths. That requires local and central government working together with business and with our regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward – who have already done a huge amount to support Leeds through the recession. The success of our local economic strategies today will be whether it can return to local people a true sense of control over their own economic future.

The recession has hit Leeds hard, especially with nearly 30% of our jobs in finance, IT and other business services. But, although unemployment has risen, efforts to keep jobs in Leeds have made a difference – the government’s Future Jobs Fund and the Response to Redundancy programme have helped keep unemployment below what it could have been.

Looking to our future, the long-term strength of Leeds and our ability to compete depends on skills. 22,000 extra apprenticeships in Yorkshire this year, the expansion of diplomas, and every 11 year old starting secondary school this year staying in education or training until 18 will all help. We must ensure that despite the need to cut the deficit we do not make short-term cuts that threaten the long-term health of the economy.

And, although unfashionable right now, the region must build on its strengths in financial services. As jobs in the green economy grow there will be exciting opportunities in financing these new technologies – Leeds must be at the heart of the green financial services revolution.

The economy is at a turning point, and the policies we pursue today will shape the economy of the future. To succeed we need excellent local leadership and a national government who will support us. As the Centre for Cities work shows, strong city economies are essential for a thriving and sustainable national economic recovery.

Rachel Reeves is Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Leeds West
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Brighton thrives, but there's room for growth yet [Jan. 19th, 2010|01:06 pm]
Brighton is a city whose economy has grown over the last 15 years, driven by its reputation. Using regeneration money to up the quality of the city, we attracted more visitors and significant (public and private) investment in culture and leisure. By doing a good job of communicating our high skills base and good quality of life, our economy has continued to grow, attracting major employers to move in and graduates to stay.

As a result, Brighton and Hove has emerged from the recession with remarkable resilience. There was much anxiety when recession began, especially about our most vital industries: high tech, digital and new media businesses, the independent retail sector and arts and culture.

But Brighton has been resilient. The independent retail sector has stood the test of the recession, with support from the Economic Partnership and FE College, by targetting niche markets - from jewellers to vegetarian shoes! The cultural sector continued to thrive, lead by the Festival. Inviting Anish Kapoor to be the guest artistic director in 2009 was a master stroke drawing widespread media attention to the city as a serious arts contender. And Wired Sussex, the organisation that supports digital media businesses, continued to grow markets for local firms and attract significant new investment, such as Disney and Second Life. While development ground to a halt, officers in the local authority secured the continuation and future expansion of American Express.

We’re developing an integrated city-wide plan for skills, we’re working on the development of 19 key sites to attract employers, and we’re working to increase the number of higher paid graduate jobs in the city. We’re expecting the number of working age people in the city to increase between now and 2016 by some 12,000.

And there’s more we could do. From all parties on the Local Authority (there's a Labour/Green majority with a minority Conservative administration) there needs to be a growth-led strategy. Less inertia from Labour, less zero growth chat from the Greens and less parochialism from the Conservatives. The Universities are, despite the shocking state of government investment, growing. We have a good skills base. We need to be more aggressive in attracting inward investment. And we need more devolved financial powers in the future, as the Centre for Cities advocates.

Simon Fanshawe is Chair of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership
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How best can our Northern Cites mature through their teenage years [Jan. 18th, 2010|05:16 pm]
2010 is the start of the teenage years for Northern Cities and our city policy over the next couple of years will determine how they develop and mature.

Over the last two decades a huge amount has been done in revitalising city centres, the likes of Urban Splash celebrating high quality, contemporary architecture; restoring historic mills and warehouses, bringing people back to live in city centres and reversing the flight of jobs outside of the city. Enlightened local and national Governments have helped build new galleries, theatres and concert halls to spice up the cultural offering.

The city centres of 2010 are unrecognisable from those of 20 years ago. Urban ‘blight’, ‘urban decay’ and ‘urban problems’ have been replaced with new buildings, new residents, new businesses and new cultural offerings. Much has been achieved but these cities are now highly impressionable teenagers who could go in a number of directions. For all the success of the last 20 years in regeneration, there’s still a lack of families and primary schools and other essential services and although regeneration has been completed in core city centres you only have to walk a few hundred yards from them to find a donut of deprivation.

If the cities are to mature, we need to see continuous investment and the creation of real regeneration in the social housing estates. It’s not just a lick of paint, new bathrooms or new kitchens, we need to see genuine ways to tackle Victorian terraces such as Chimney Pot Park, 1960s council estates; such as 3 Towers, the Cardroom Estate and Park Hill and we need to find new financial ways to do this.

The days of regeneration being funded as a spin-off to private sector led development are over for the time being and we need to continue the innovative work of organisations like the Homes and Communities Agency and regional development agencies with whom we can look at new funding models.

There are no easy answers but I hope that the work of Centre for Cities (which I’m proud to Chair) will help the Government and industry better understand how to grow and develop cities through their teenage years to develop into mature, family-friendly, adult cities.
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Lancashire's united towns can emerge from the recession [Jan. 18th, 2010|05:10 pm]
As a cotton town region Pennine Lancashire has a proud history in manufacturing and towns such as Blackburn and Burnley have been moulded around this. However, as manufacturing declined the area struggled to adjust resulting in the problems outlined in the centre for cities report.

We are a diverse area with worsening levels of relative deprivation but set in breathtaking countryside. In Blackburn we have one of the youngest populations in the UK and a nationally recognised record of regeneration. We recognised that trying to improve our own borough in isolation would be extremely difficult especially since problems such as low skills, benefit dependency, transport etc were not confined to one borough in particular but affected us all.

To address these issues as a collective, we agreed to sign a Multi Area Agreement based upon a functional economic sub region which covers 530,000 people in 7 local authorities built on years of partnership working and commit us all to transforming the area and raise the aspirations of our citizens. We are committed to increasing higher education places, and making sure education providers link with businesses to ensure skills can match local jobs; improving our housing; investing in advanced manufacturing; and investing in transport infrastructure to link us more closely with growth areas such as Manchester and Leeds.

Blackburn on its own cannot rise out of the recession but by working with our Pennine Lancashire colleagues together we have a stronger voice and stronger influence. For Pennine Lancashire, coming through the recession won’t be easy, this report has shown that, but we are confident that through collaborative working and a desire and determination to succeed we can address the problems that have been outlined in the report.

Graham Burgess is chief executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council
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We need to target unemployment to help our cities [Jan. 18th, 2010|01:53 pm]
A year ago I expected that by the end of 2009 unemployment would have hit three million. And more worrying still, that youth unemployment would have been well over a million. Thankfully neither of these things has happened. The combination of low interest rates, quantitative easing and substantial fiscal stimulus has kept us from the precipice. The concern is that if tightening of policy comes too quickly, unemployment would rise again.

This week’s report from the Centre for Cities shows that young people are bearing the brunt of the recession in cities. For example, in Swindon and Milton Keynes – two cities which have been exposed to the downturn in their transport and distribution sectors – youth unemployment has risen much more sharply than the GB average.

This has long-run consequences. The evidence is that wages are lower, the chances of being unemployed is higher and mental health is worse as an adult if an individual has been unemployed for any significant length of time while young. Where youth unemployment is concentrated in urban areas, it can damage cities’ future economic potential, as a generation of workers is scarred.

Fears of the impact of recession on the young has resulted in unprecedented actions by government. Indeed, in the PBR the government announced a tax on banker's bonuses the proceeds of which would be used to fund measures to assist the young unemployed. The young will be paying for the excesses of the bankers for the foreseeable future, so this is to be welcomed.

The fixation with targeting CPI inflation has turned out to be a cul-de-sac.

Actually inflation doesn't hurt that much. A few years of inflation of around five per cent would actually get us out of this mess and would in large part solve the problem of negative equity.

Unemployment is what we should be targeting. It lowers the well being of the unemployed themselves a lot plus it lowers the happiness of everyone else. We need to do what is best for ordinary people. Whichever party wins the next election must keep the stimulus going.
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We need to revitalise municipal government [Jan. 18th, 2010|12:04 pm]
Cities are the main centres for population and economic activity as well as being infrastructure hubs. They contain, particularly in London, great concentrations of wealth but also great poverty. If the British economy is to recover and flourish, cities must lead the way.

The Liberal Democrats have experience of running some of Britain’s big cities: Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, Hull, Cardiff, Bristol and Portsmouth and are in partnership with other parties in Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh. City Government requires ambition and drive to promote regeneration combined with efficient service delivery and tight control of services.

We want to see less central control and a bigger role for local government. The de-nationalisation of business rates is a key first step. At the moment, British cities only raise 20% of their revenue locally when the OECD average is 50%. Most central government supervisory and control functions should be scrapped.

RDAs have largely failed and waste large sums. Where they work well and have local support, as in the North East and Yorkshire, they should remain albeit refocused. Others should be scrapped with the more valuable activities devolved to local government or City regions, with big savings overall.

City councils cannot, with limited resources, be much more than catalysts. But good councils can already help local businesses through their procurement and payment practices; advise individuals; help small companies take up rate relief and some are pioneering local banking and mutuals.

They have a key role in housing although we have largely passed through the era of big council estates and comprehensive redevelopment. The future will involve the refurbishment of empty or under occupied property for social letting; the acquisition of unsold properties from developers and a revival of council housing reflecting current ideas on environmental and planning standards.

Today’s municipal government is but a pale shadow of what was the case before successive centralising national governments drained the life from it. The process must now be reversed.
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The goverment needs to help our struggling cities [Jan. 18th, 2010|10:25 am]
Our Cities Outlook report presents a big pre-election challenge to all three parties. Brown, Cameron and Clegg need to wake up to these facts:

· The recession has widened the gap between our most prosperous and struggling cities.

· The recovery will be very uneven - Brighton is set to do better than Blackburn.

· All cities need to grow their private sector - they won't be able to rely on Government funding.

Our largest cities will be vital to the national recovery. Over one in three jobs in England is based in Greater London plus the city-regions of Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

But the recovery will be very uneven. Brighton is well-placed to recover, with its strong business base and high-skilled workforce. Blackburn will have a tougher time, as it's more reliant on the public sector and has lower skills.

Fixing cities like Blackburn and Barnsley will not be easy - they were losing private sector jobs, even before the recession.

The next Government will need to support struggling cities, but with less public cash. The priorities must be to improve their skills and public transport - so they can attract new business, and link up with nearby growth areas like Manchester and Leeds.
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First there was accession, now there is recession… [Mar. 16th, 2009|06:13 pm]
Since Eastern Europe joined the EU in 2004, the growing UK economy generated lots of vacancies - many of which were filled by A8 migrants. Now that we are in recession, the picture has changed. A8 migration is now taking place for the first time against the backdrop of increased competition for fewer jobs.

At Centre for Cities we have looked at the impact of A8 migration on the labour markets of two UK cities – Hull and Bristol.  Over the past year, unemployment has risen sharply and job vacancies across the UK have fallen by 30%.  Bristol has seen job vacancies decline by 59%, Hull by 45%.  Given that migrants in Bristol work across a broad range of sectors, it’s likely the city will see more direct competition for jobs between A8 migrants and the local workforce. 
In Hull, it’s a case of different city, different story.    A8 migrants mostly work in warehouses or processing plants, as packers, mechanics or on production lines.  They are channelled into these jobs through migrant recruitment agencies.  There are effectively two parallel job markets in the city and Hull and East Riding local authorities, alongside Jobcentre Plus will need to work closely with these agencies to open up job opportunities to everyone.
Not all migrants are going home. In Bristol, for example, there's a well-established and growing Polish community. The migrants have brought with them youth, skills and motivation and helped to plug skill shortages and keep businesses competitive, helping them to grow and thrive.  It is time to stop thinking of A8 arrivals as migrants, and start doing more to integrate those that want to stay – so they can help drive the UK out of recession.

Accession to Recession: A8 Migration in Bristol and Hull by Catherine Glossop and Faiza Shaheen at the Centre for Cities is available here

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A taxing time for our cities [Feb. 2nd, 2009|11:23 am]
There's nothing so certain as death and taxes, so the saying goes. Well, we're facing one of those rare situations where the creative use of one (taxes that is) might help us to avoid the other. Not complete demise exactly, but a backsliding, through a failure to take the opportunity that is in front of us.

The eight Core Cities have achieved fantastic gains through regeneration, literally being reborn, redefined. With their city regions, these places now produce more wealth than London and contain a third of England's population; they make our economy viable.

But there is another certainty in dealing with any sticky situation: if we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail. Have our great cities got the tools they need to lay new economic foundations and put the building blocks of recovery in place?

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The renaissance of our cities will be the engine of recovery [Jan. 27th, 2009|08:02 am]

The renaissance of our leading cities, like Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, has been the engine of recent prosperity and will be the motor of recovery too. The latest data indicates that the rise in unemployment is spread fairly evenly across the country. However, as the Centre for Cities' report highlights, towns and cities in Britain will be affected in different ways, reflecting their distinctive local populations and industries. We are determined to avoid the mistakes of previous recessions, when some areas were disproportionately hit by unemployment and then held back from taking advantage of the opportunities of recovery.

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