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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Where did London’s parakeets come from?

Parakeets in the skies above Wormwood Scrubs, west London. Image: Getty.

Visitors to London’s many green spaces would have to be stubbornly looking at their feet to not see one of the UK’s most exotic birds.  Dubbed “posh pigeons” by unimaginative Londoners, these brilliant green parakeets stand out among the fauna of Northern Europe’s mostly grey cities.

‘Parakeets’ is actually an umbrella term referring to the multiple species, which can now be found in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and various German cities. By far the most common is the Indian ring-necked parakeet, easily recognisable by the stylish red ring around their neck, a matching red beak and, of course, the loud squawking.

In the last 50 years these migrants from South Asia have arrived and thrived, settling into their own ecological niche. In the UK, London is a particular stronghold, but although they may have originally settled in the leafy streets of Twickenham, the birds can now be found in cities as far north as Glasgow.

The story of how they ended up in London is a matter of some discussion and plenty of myth. One often reported theory is that the capitals’ current population are the descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others would tell you that they escaped from Syon Park in the early 1970s, when a piece of debris from a passing plane damaged the aviary and allowed them to escape. This chimes with their original concentration in South West London.
My favourite story by far is that they were released by Jimi Hendrix on Carnaby Street in the late 60s. Bored of London’s grey skyline, he set the little fellas free to liven up the place.

However they got here, from 1970 onwards their numbers boomed. In 1992, 700 birds were recorded in London Bird Report. By 1998, 2,845 were seen in the London Area, and by 2006 the ring-neck parakeet was 15th most sighted bird in London.

Darwin would be proud at how well they adapted to the new environment. Toughened up by the hard Himalayan climate, they handle the cold northern European winters better than most locals. Global warming is often brought up in discussions of the parakeets, but it is certainly only part of the story.
It helps, too, that the birds have a 35 year lifespan and few local predators, enabling them to breed freely.

As with any new species, the debate has raged about whether they are harmful to the ecosystem. Strangely reminiscent of the debate over human migrants, often the birds have often been accused of stealing the homes of the natives. The parakeets do nest in tree cavities also used by jackdaws, owls and woodpeckers – but there is little evidence that native species are being muscled out. 

The also provide a food source for Britain's embattled birds of prey. Owls and peregrine falcons have been know to eat them. Charlie and Tom, two city dwelling falcons monitored by Nathalie Mahieu, often bring back parakeets as food.
Of more concern is the new arrivals’ effect on plants and trees. By 2009 their numbers in the UK had grown so much that they were added to the “general licence” of species, which can be killed without individual permission if they are causing damage.

And Parrotnet, am EU funded research project studying the development of parakeet populations across Europe, has warned of the risk they pose to agriculture. In their native India, the parakeets are known to cause widespread damage to crops. As agriculture develops in the UK in line with warmer climates, crops such as maize, grapes and sunflower will become more popular. In India the birds have been documented as reducing maize crops by 81 per cent.

So the parakeets remain divisive. Environmentalist Tony Juniper has disparagingly described them as “the grey squirrel of the skies”. By contrast, the University of York biologist Chris D. Thomas has argued that the parakeets should be left free to move and breed. He sees those wary of the parakeet boom of “irrational persecution” of the bird.

For good or ill the parakeets are here to stay. As so often with migrants of all kinds, there has been some unease about the impact they have had – but the birds, popular amongst Londoners, certainly add colour to the city. Thriving in the urban environment thousands of miles from their natural habitat, they are a metropolitan bird for Europe’s metropolitan cities. 

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