Ben Lowndes #viewsoncomms

A perspective on PR, development and life in the South West

City Deals: big news outside London

I’ve been following the news in my car and online today for reaction to the Government’s City Deals announcement, which hands more powers to some of England’s largest metropolitan areas outside London.

These deals for Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester will see them take on new responsibilities and, in some cases, form new bodies which aim to drive growth and create thousands of new jobs in their areas.

If the recent mayoral referenda acts as any yardstick, then a story about boosting city economies does not excite the London-centric media, despite the fact that England’s eight core cities have more than 17m residents and generate around 25% of the country’s wealth. And, true to form, the response from the national media seems to have been to play it straight or not at all (I had to dig around some websites amongst stories about Bob Diamond and cuts to the Army, also announced today, to find any coverage on this).

This announcement affects more readers and listeners than London’s mayoral election did (and look at the coverage that got everywhere). It marks a major shift, not seen for decades, which gives cities the chance to reestablish themselves as powerhouses in their own right, as they used to be. These agreements pave the way for cities to set up self-sustaining investment funds, establish joint venture companies to train apprentices and have funding and flexibility to deliver key transport and infrastructure projects.

In Bristol, which was visited by Danny Alexander to make the announcement for the West of England today, the focus is on ambitions to invest £1bn in a new transport system and growth hubs and retain business rate incomes in five Enterprise Areas that have been set up to boost business growth. A key aim is to use these new powers to create 95,000 new jobs by 2030. Whoever wins the contest to become Bristol’s first elected mayor in November will be doing so at an exciting and important time for the city.

Here are some bits and pieces for those of you who wish to find out more about City Deals:

2 responses to “City Deals: big news outside London

  1. Jenny 06/07/2012 at 2:27 pm

    Agree about the poor coverage and like your comparison with those affected by the London mayoral election. However one factor may be how opaque and jargon heavy the announcements were. I’ve been involved with this agenda for some time but even I was scratching my head to try to figure out exactly what the proposals meant and what difference it’d make on the ground. There is also a general cynicism about announcements of this time that it’s just a reannouncement or not real money which probably doesn’t help secure interest.


    • benlowndes 06/07/2012 at 8:02 pm

      You’re right Jenny – of course: no excuse for it!

      I would add, though, that it’s the media’s job to look beyond the jargon to spot an important story; many seemed to repeat the lines they were given rather than explain what this could mean. For me, this isn’t about structures, concepts like ‘freedom’ or even extra dosh. It’s about recognising the potential that cities have to redress the chronic imbalance that exists between London and the rest of the country. Sadly, the London based media perpetuates this imbalance and it is going to take some big ideas and bold action to wrest some of this influence back.

      But there are some interesting times ahead for Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester (all places where I have lived and worked) and other cities, provided they are given a chance to ‘get on with’ what they have said they will deliver.


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