RSA launches inquiry into role of cities

28 Oct 13
The Royal Society of Arts today launched a major new inquiry looking at how to boost the role of cities in economic growth

Its City Growth Commission has been established with a call for evidence, urging councils and businesses to submit ideas on how England’s cities can drive growth and meet current fiscal and economic challenges.

The commission, which will be led by Jim O’Neill, retiring chair of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, will use this evidence to develop a plan to support city-led growth and help rebalance the economy. It will be based at the RSA’s 2020 Public Services trust, and supported by the Core Cities Group, the Greater London Authority, and London Councils. 

Today’s call for evidence stated there was an ‘increasing recognition of the role of cities in creating economic growth in the UK and globally’. The inquiry will therefore look at what factors influence growth at a city level.

Among the areas being examined is the relationship between public service reform and economic output, and whether public services can be better aligned with local labour markets. This will include an assessment of whether employment support, childcare and welfare strategies could better reflect the needs of local people and businesses if they were run locally.

The commission will also consider how to make cities more financially sustainable, and whether greater public service integration, such as Community Budgets, would increase economic productivity.

Submissions are also sought on how English cities outside London can compliment the capital’s economic success, and what changes are needed between central and local government to boost such ‘multi-polar’ growth.

The new inquiry follows the report of the London Finance Commission, established by London Mayor Boris Johnson. Published earlier this year, the commission’s report called for a host of tax powers to be given to the capital.

As well as O’Neill, commissioners include London Finance Commission chair Tony Travers, Bridget Rosewell, the former chief economist to GLA, and Rohan Silva, a former adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Launching the commission, which will report next autumn, O’Neill said urbanisation could drive growth globally, but many UK cities were attempting to compete internationally with one hand tied behind their backs.
‘I don’t think we should deceive ourselves about the size of some of the issues here,’ he said.

‘I think there’s often a view in this city that the relative decline of some urban areas… is just irreversible and there’s nothing we can do about. But there are in my opinion a number of cities in different parts of the world where they have [taken action].

‘Our commission will examine what mix of powers, incentives and responsibilities will give our cities the critical mass they need to succeed.’


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