Tax data shows the north's city regions are increasingly dependent on their urban cores

The Chancellor's famous red box. Image: Getty.

It’s becoming increasingly important to understand how patterns of economic performance in combined authorities translate into tax revenues.

The devolution of business rates already raises questions about how to deal with combined authorities within the national system, and by extension how to deal with revenues generated in individual authorities within combined authorities. Now, with new metro mayors coming in 2017, and appetite for fiscal devolution growing, it will be important to know more about the patterns and dynamics of city region revenues to develop proposals that work for different places.

So, let’s dig a little deeper, and look at what has happened at local authority level within three combined authorities that are set to receive new powers through their devolution deals: Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and the North East.

Doing so reveals two important conclusions.

1) The data highlights the importance of the urban cores of these combined authorities in generating tax revenues.

In Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, the lion’s share of economy-led taxes were generated in Manchester (30 per cent of the combined authority total) and Leeds (44 per cent of the total) local authorities last year. In the North East, Durham and Newcastle local authorities play a fairly equal role in terms of generating taxes within the combined authority (both contribute 22 per cent of the total amount raised in the area).

Tax raised in Greater Manchester

Tax raised in West Yorkshire

Tax raised in North East

2) Over the last decade, the importance of the urban core has grown in Greater Manchester – but less so the North East and West Yorkshire.

In Greater Manchester, the share of revenues generated in Manchester local authority has grown: it’s gone from generating 27 to 30 per cent of all taxes.

Interestingly in the North East and West Yorkshire, the relative contribution of different authorities has not changed as much over time. In the North East, Newcastle and Durham local authorities generated just over a fifth of the total economy taxes generated in the combined authority area both ten years ago and today. In West Yorkshire, Leeds generated 43 per cent of all economy taxes in 2004-05; it generates 44 per cent today.

Part of the explanation for the change in relative levels of taxes generated in the different combined authorities lies in the performance of the local authority tax base in cash terms. In Greater Manchester, Manchester local authority, alongside Salford and Bury, was one of only three to generate more economy taxes today than a decade ago. Both the positive performance of Manchester (and Salford and Bury) and the relative decline of others help explain the more prominent role of Manchester in GM’s tax base.

Meanwhile, in the North East all local authorities have grown in real terms over the decade. In West Yorkshire, all local authorities are now generating less than they were ten years ago – something which has led to an unchanged relative position between individual authorities over time.


Tax raised in Greater Manchester over the last decade


Tax raised in West Yorkshire over the last decade


Tax raised in the North East over the last decade

These patterns highlight the roles and linkages of different local authorities within city regions.

The data shows the increasing attractiveness of central urban areas for people to work, and spend their wages in shops and bars nearby (all of which generated tax receipts in the form of income tax, NICs and VAT). But while a high number of tax generating jobs, businesses and shops are located within one or two urban centres, we know that people who work and spend their money there live and consume public services more widely in the city region.

These linkages are the fundamental rationale for delivering policy such as transport and housing at combined authority level. They should also inform any proposals for further fiscal devolution – such as arrangements to pool and manage tax revenues across multiple authorities in a combined authority.

Louise McGough is a policy officer at the Centre for Cities. This article was first posted on the think tank’s blog.

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Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.

At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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