Letter: Some thoughts on what’s gone wrong with Leeds

The growth of the economics of major British cities since 2007. Leeds is near the bottom. Image: CityMetric, based on Centre for Cities data.

A few weeks ago, we published this piece by editor Jonn Elledge. It showed that Liverpool’s economy has grown faster than was generally realised – but Leeds, once seen as the financial capital of the north, had grown much slower.

The post generated correspondence. For example, this.


I have a few theories to explain Leeds’ relative underperformance:

  • The centralisation of English finance jobs in London. Leeds is historically England’s second city of finance. But the concentration of finance in London post Big Bang deregulation has been to Leeds’ detriment.
  • The deindustrialisation of the wider Yorkshire economy, which has affected Leeds badly. Even if there are many good jobs in Leeds itself, the decline of manufacturing and coal mining in other parts of Yorkshire has affected Leeds.
  • The polycentric nature of the Yorkshire urban area. London and Greater Manchester benefit from having one main CBD. Urban Yorkshire has many: Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster, Wakefield. In the modern world of agglomeration, polycentric cities are bad.
  • A big graduate brain drain. Leeds University is a solid Russell group institution. But nearly all the students leave after graduating, many of whom go to London – unlike Manchester, where a lot of graduates stay.
  • Lack of foreign investment. Leeds lacks a global brand, unlike London or Manchester. It doesn’t get the same tourism numbers as Edinburgh or even Bristol, so foreign investors don’t consider it when deciding where to invest in Britain.
  • Leeds lacks the high tech, cutting edge jobs that are increasingly significant. Cities like Cambridge and Reading have seen high levels of growth because of how many tech companies are based there. Leeds doesn’t have these sorts of companies to the same extent.

Hope that helps,

Owen Bell

Crawley, West Sussex



The Museum of London now has a fatcam video feed so you can watch its fatberg live, for some reason

I think it looked at me: Fatcam in action. Image: Museum of London/YouTube.

Remember the “monster fatberg” – the 250m long, 130 tonne congealed lump of fat, oil, wet wipes and sanitary products found lurking in the sewers of Whitechapel? Back in December, the Museum of London acquired a chunk of it to put on display, describing it as “London’s newest celebrity”, which really puts the newly minted Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle in her place.

Anyway: the fatberg is now in storage – but fear not, for it’s now possible to monitor it, live, from the comfort of your own desk. From a press release:

The Museum of London today has announced that it has now acquired the famous Whitechapel fatberg into its permanent collection. The fatberg will now permanently be on display online via a livestream. It can be viewed here.

I clicked through, because I have poor impulse control, and was greeted by a picture of a disgusting lump of yellow/beige fat engaging in so little motion that it’s not entirely clear it’s live at all. However, a note beneath the feed promises all sorts of excitement:

Whilst on display the fatberg hatched flies, sweated and changed colour. Since going off display, fatberg has started to grow an unusual and toxic mould, in the form of visible yellow pustules. Our collections care team has identified this as aspergillus.

Well, that is reassuring.

Conservators believe that fatberg started to grow the spores whilst on display and now a month later, these spores have become more visible. Any changes to the samples will now be able to be viewed live.

Is it ever likely to do more than this, I asked a spokesperson? “Does... does it move?”

“Not at the moment but who knows what might happen in the future!” came the reply. So, there we are.

Fatbergs, since you ask, are the result of cooking fat, poured down sinks to congeal in sewers. Assorted wipes and napkins are also involved, helping to give the thing structure. There are even fatberg groupies, because of course there are.

If you happen to want stare at a disgusting greasy yellow/beige lump that will always be indelibly associated with London, then former mayor Boris Johnson can often be seen jogging in the Islington area.

And you can watch fatcam here, for some reason.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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