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Chris  Brown

UK Minister for Cities

Authors: Chris Brown Chris Brown

20 July 2011

Yesterday’s (19th July 2011) announcement of the appointment of Greg Clark as the new Minister for Cities is welcomed by The Work Foundation. Our Cities 2020 programme emphasises the key role that cities play in driving economic growth and creating jobs, and this appointment shows that the Coalition is committed to achieving long term and sustainable economic recovery.

Cities offer firms across all sectors access to a critical mass of consumers, highly skilled workers, strong transport networks, and the physical location for the exchange of knowledge and ideas and can help shape the economy of the future. The eight largest cities outside of London  – which the Minister will initially focus on - generate over a quarter of the nation’s wealth.

However, there a number of issues the ministerial group must address if it is to be successful. In the United States, President Barack Obama implemented a similar strategy through the Office of Urban Affairs in 2009, but it has failed to have a significantly positive impact. Fundamentally the commitment to sustain a direct relationship between cities and government has been lost. It is therefore vital that this new focus for the UK government does not follow a similar path and remains a prominent agenda for driving growth in the UK.

Today (20th July 2011), we are hosting a roundtable event on the role that cities can play in driving innovation, building on current research within the Cities 2020 team. Understanding how we create the right conditions for innovation to flourish and identifying the key institutions that will drive this at the local level is fundamental to driving economic growth in the longer term.

First and foremost, local leaders (and Greg Clark) must recognise that cities have different strengths and weaknesses and it is important that the strategies to support them are tailored to these strengths. It is therefore refreshing to see that the new Minister for Cities intends to approach cities on an individual basis .

Secondly it is vital that local authorities and the newly formed LEPs are provided with the power and resources to develop their local economies – in some places this means helping to stem decline.  

We will be launching a report in late August that considers the importance of place and innovation in driving growth. It is important that government ensures this city strategy gets off to a positive start, and takes note of these recommendations to ensure that the link between cities and government is being tailored to suit the individual needs of UK cities. Failure to do so will lead to growing disparities and the long term decline of many urban economies outside of London and the Greater South East.