Integrating smaller cities in the UK with their surrounding regions is a ‘win-win’ strategy, which will help boost regional economies, according to a new international study.
The report by the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship warns that productivity in many of the UK’s smaller cities is low by international standards and more must be done to help boost these areas.
It also makes clear that towns and cities are mutually reliant, not economic islands, and that strengthening the links between them will further boost growth, particularly across city regions.
It argues that better integrating towns and cities through networked economies is a ‘win-win’ for the UK.
The report claims that towns and villages can reap the benefits of bigger cities, while cities can experience productivity gains because of the economic weight that surrounding places can bring.
It also calls on the government to continue devolution to local authorities across the UK, allowing them to plan spending more strategically over longer periods.
The study also recommends connecting health and employment programmes and reducing childcare costs to help increase the number of people in work.
And it also calls on Whitehall to give city regions the powers to set bus fares and timetables.
‘Representing around a quarter of the UK population and economy, improving productivity in Core Cities can help boost overall growth in the UK,’ said OECD Secretary General, Ángel Gurría.
‘Local and national governments need to jointly strengthen workers’ skills, improve labour market participation, better connect cities to their surrounding areas and make them more attractive places to live. The solution is not universal – it must address specific challenges and opportunities in their local context.’
The report has been welcomed by Core Cities UK as a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to ‘level up’ the UK.
‘As the report makes clear, our city regions and their networks of towns and cities have unusually low levels of productivity by international standards. Our economy is missing out on billions of pounds every year that could change the lives of millions living outside of London,’ said Core Cities cabinet member and Newcastle City Council leader, Cllr Nick Forbes.
‘But this report is about more than just big numbers and big cities. It is about how we can produce a prosperous and fair economy for our citizens regardless of where they live. Decentralising the UK will help raise productivity. We must continue our devolution journey and accelerate the pace.’
The full report – Enhancing Productivity in UK Core Cities: Connecting and Local and Regional Government – is available to read here.
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