Brexit: What's the most pro-European city in Britain?

Well, at least this lot were pro-EU. Image: AFP/Getty.

Last Thursday, Britain held a referendum, and – sit down, this may come as a shock - voted to leave the European Union. The result was close, but clear: 51.9 per cent voted leave, against 48.1 per cent for remain. (The turnout was 72.2 per cent.)

Individual areas though showed much more decisive results. Scotland and Northern Ireland went remain; England and Wales went leave. London, too, was much more enthusiastic for EU membership than either of the countries of which it's meant to be capital.

So what of Britain's other cities? What do they think of the whole thing? 

As ever, we need to define terms first. The figures in the chart below are based on local authority boundaries, which inevitably throws up oddities. It kind of makes sense for some of the smaller cities (Oxford City is as good a definition of Oxford as you’re likely to get). But it means that Manchester's number doesn't take into account the votes of people who live five minutes walk from the city centre in Salford, Birmingham's include Longbridge but not Solihull, and so forth.

It also means it's pretty difficult to come up with a fair comparison with London's vote – the only "London" authority is conurbation-wide, and so includes the sort of places that don’t make the cut in most of the other major cities. There's no right answer as to how to make the fairest comparison; so I've included stats for both Inner London, and Greater London, just to get a sense. 

Now that’s all out of the way, here's a chart showing the percentage of voters opting for remain in 30 selected British cities.

Click to expand.

Major cities are generally more pro-European than the UK-wide average: of the 30 on this chart, only seven fall below the national average. (That doesn't necessarily translate to "Remain" getting more than 50 per cent of the vote, however, and Leave won a majority in five more.)

Inner London is more EU-friendly than any British city except Edinburgh (another place heavily dependent on financial services), and Cambridge (university town, pretty international, and a place, one imagines, where the EU's spending on science is at its most visible).

For once, the standard regional pattern that tends to pop up in these things is nowhere to be seen. Scottish cities are generally more pro-remain, but otherwise, the results are all over the map. If there is a trend, it’s that struggling post-industrial cities are generally more Eurosceptic than those with big cultural or service industries.

There are exceptions, though: Dundee is quite pro-European (the Scotland effect at work); Southend and Portsmouth aren't. It was said before the vote that the biggest predictor of whether someone was voting Remain was whether they had a degree; that would seem to fit with these results.

The big question, though, is – what on earth is going on Birmingham that makes it so much less pro-European than every other of Britain's major conurbations?

As we noted at the start, though, in the larger conurbations, these figures only represent the key local authority, rather than the larger city region. We'll look at those another day.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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There isn’t a single national housing market – so we need multiple models of local regeneration, too

Rochdale. Image: Getty.

This week’s budget comes ten years after the 2007 financial crisis. The trigger for that crisis was a loss in confidence in mortgages for homes, with banks suddenly recognising the vulnerability of loans on their books.

In the last ten years, the UK’s cities and regions have followed very different paths. This week’s focus on housing affordability is welcome, but it will be a challenge for any chancellor in the coming decade to use national policy to help towns up and down the country. Local housing markets differ drastically. The new crop of city-region mayors are recognising this, as rents in parts of south Greater Manchester are on average double the rents in parts of the north of the city-region.

When it comes to buying a home, politicians are increasingly articulate about the consequences of inequity in our housing system. But we must recognise that, for 9m citizens who live in social rented homes, the prospects of improvements to properties, common areas and grounds are usually tied to wider projects to create new housing within existing estates – sometimes involving complete demolition and rebuilding.

While the Conservative governments of the 1980s shrank the scale of direct investment in building homes for social rent, the Labour governments from the late 1990s used a sustained period of growth in property prices to champion a new model: affordable housing was to be paid for by policies which required contributions to go to housing associations. Effectively, the funding for new affordable housing and refurbished social homes was part of the profit from market housing built next door, on the same turf; a large programme of government investment also brought millions of social rented homes up to a decent standard.

This cross-subsidy model was always flawed. Most fundamentally, it relies on rising property prices – which it is neither desirable nor realistic to expect. Building more social homes became dependent on ratcheting up prices and securing more private profit. In London, we are starting to see that model come apart at the seams.

The inevitable result has been that with long social housing waiting lists and rocketing market prices, new developments have too often ended up as segregated local communities, home to both the richest and the poorest. They may live side by side, but as the RSA concluded earlier this year, investment in the social infrastructure and community development to help neighbours integrate has too often been lacking. Several regeneration schemes that soldiered on through the downturn did so by building more private homes and fewer social rented homes than existed before, or by taking advantage of more generous legal definitions of what counts as ‘affordable housing’ – or both.

A rough guide to how house prices have changed since 2007: each hexagon is a constituency. You can explore the full version at ODI Leeds.

In most of England’s cities, the story does not appear to be heading for the dramatic crescendo high court showdowns that now haunt both developers and communities in the capital. In fact, for most social housing estates in most places outside London, national government should recognise that the whole story looks very different. As austerity measures have tightened budgets for providers of social housing, budgets to refurbish ageing homes are under pressure to do more with less. With an uncertain outlook for property prices, as well as ample brownfield and greenfield housing sites, estates in many northern towns are not a priority for private investors in property development.

In many towns and cities – across the North and the Midlands – the challenges of a poor quality built environment, a poor choice of homes in the local are, and entrenched deprivation remain serious. The recent reclassification of housing associations into the private sector doesn’t make investing in repairs and renewal more profitable. The bespoke ‘housing deals’ announced show that the government is willing to invest directly – but there is anxiety that devolution to combined authorities simply creates another organisation that needs to prioritise building new homes over the renewal of existing neighbourhoods.


In Rochdale, the RSA is working with local mutual housing society RBH to plan for physical, social and economic regeneration at the same time. Importantly, we are making the case – with input from the community of residents themselves – that significant investment in improving employment for residents might itself save the public purse enough money to pay for itself in the long-run.

Lots of services are already effective at helping people find work and start a job. But for those for whom job searching feels out of reach, we are learning from Rochdale Borough Council’s pioneering work that the journey to work can only come from trusting, personal relationships. We hear time and again about the demoralising effect of benefits sanctions and penalties. We are considering an alternative provision of welfare payments, as are other authorities in the UK. Importantly, residents are identifying clearly the particular new challenges created by new forms of modern employment and the type of work available locally: this is a town where JD Sports is hiring 1000 additional workers to fulfil Black Friday orders at its warehouse.

In neighbourhoods like Rochdale’s town centre, both national government and the new devolved city-region administration are considering an approach to neighbourhood change that works for both people and place together. Redevelopment of the built environment is recognised as just one aspect of improving people’s quality of life. Residents themselves will tell you quality jobs and community facilities are their priority. But without a wider range of housing choices and neighbourhood investment locally, success in supporting residents to achieve rising incomes will mean many residents are likely to leave places like Rochdale town centre altogether.

Meaningful change happen won’t happen without patience and trust: between agencies in the public sector, between tenants and landlords, and between citizens and the leaders of cities. This applies as much to our planning system as it does to our complex skills and employment system.

Trust builds slowly and erodes quickly. As with our other projects at the RSA, we are convinced that listening and engaging citizens will improve policy-making. Most of those involved in regeneration know this better than anyone. But at the national level we need to recognise that, just as the labour market and the housing market vary dramatically from place to place, there isn’t a single national story which represents how communities feel about local regeneration.

Jonathan Schifferes is interim Director, Public Services and Communities, at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).