World Cities Day: Our cities are the engines of modern Britain
Joint statement from Core Cities UK and Key Cities Group
Today our cities are collectively marking United Nations’ World Cities Day, showing our support and solidarity with hundreds of other cities across the globe.
One of this year’s themes is Open Cities. Open Cities work hard to remain diverse, tolerant and fair to all people no matter what their background. They aim to give everyone the same life chances so they can contribute to and share more in the proceeds of economic growth, what we call ‘Inclusive Growth’.
Cities are the future and more and more people are now living in them. At the moment, more than 50% of the world’s population live in a city, and this will rise to 70% by 2050.
Globally, a shift is taking place as power moves from nation states to cities in recognition of their role as drivers of economies. They are the places where the complex challenges of 21st Century life, like cohesion and climate change, will be solved.
Core and Key Cities make up 33 cities across the UK that are home to more than half the country’s population. We are pivotal to the UK economy generating almost a third of its GVA.
Our cities are the engines of modern Britain, drivers of its global trade, and have experienced a renaissance over the past two decades.
They have a strong story to tell, but they also face major local challenges which will have national impacts if not addressed.
As the UK starts its journey toward leaving the EU, we must do more to empower our cities, creating a unity of purpose, harnessing the creativity and energy of our businesses and citizens and unlocking Inclusive Growth.
Yet by EU standards, our cities have relatively few powers and low levels of investment with which to achieve these things. Partly as a result of this, living standards have remained too low for too many, for too long, with the result that many in our communities feel left behind and that they do not benefit when growth is delivered.
If the UK is to achieve a successful Brexit, and we are to maintain our reputation as a country with some of the most open and tolerant cities in the world, this needs to change.
We will continue working together on these issues, holding government to account on behalf of our citizens and we aim to come together next year to review progress and put forward ideas on where we go next.
In the meantime, next month’s budget represents a major opportunity to empower our cities, to tackle deprivation and do more to create Inclusive Growth, which in turn will drive up productivity.
But more importantly, it is an opportunity to give a message of hope to our business and communities.
Both our groups have already set out detailed ideas in the Core Cities UK Green Paper, Invest Reform Trust and the Key Cities budget submission
In particular we want to highlight three areas that will make an immediate difference, as part of a wider package of devolution and reform. These do not all apply to cities in the devolved nations, but all our cities do want more local control and commitments to place-based policy.
Housing. Greater investment, freedom to borrow and to pursue locally relevant and flexible housing policy will drive up delivery of numbers, type and quality of housing.
Education and Skills. Further devolution and local commissioning of services for adult skills and employment, linked to other services like health, will strengthen our labour markets, delivering the skills business needs and increasing productivity at a critical moment.
Brexit. A Brexit ‘City Deal’. The Brexit negotiations should include a greater recognition of the trading and skilled migration relationship between cities across the EU and how this can be maintained and strengthened.
In addition, there are a range of local government finance issues, for example the crisis faced in Adult and Children’s Care Services, that also threaten to undermine our economic role, which we deliver on behalf of the UK.
Our cities have never been more important to the future of this country. Government needs to enter into dialogue and partnership with us to exploit our untapped potential and secure the future of Britain’s Open Cities.