London named world's most influential city

Power and glory. Image: Diliff at Wikimedia Commons.

This week, London’s notoriously grumpy residents have a reason to celebrate: their city has been named the most influential in the world by Forbes magazine. The ancient enemies, New York and Paris, were pushed into second and third spots respectively.

The report’s authors measured the influence of 58 world cities by working out how “necessary” they were, either to a critical industry or to their respective corners of the world. To figure this out they looked at eight factors, including foreign investment, the concentration of corporate headquarters, connectivity by air, technology or media power, and racial diversity.

London scored highly on air connectivity, which was based on how many global cities can be reached directly from its airports at least three times a week (its proximity to Europe helped on that score). It also did well on foreign investment: its 328 foreign investment transactions per year were more than double New York's 143.

In other world rankings of cities, such the A.T. Kearney World Cities index or The Economist’s global Cities Competitiveness index, first place usually goes to either New York or London. But the former tends to have the edge, so London’s victory in the Forbes list is particularly sweet (or at least it will be, until the next ranking comes along).

But in a piece accompanying the list, Joel Kotkin, one of its authors, does take a bit of a dig at the country which London sits within:

“Inertia and smart use of it is a key theme that emerged in our evaluation of the top global cities. No city better exemplifies this than London, which after more than a century of imperial decline still ranks No. 1 in our survey. The United Kingdom may now be a second-rate power, but the City’s unparalleled legacy as a global financial capital still underpins its pre-eminence”.

Sentences like that should really help to heal the rift between London and the rest of Britain.

The ranking also highlighted a number of emerging world cities whose power is likely to grow over the next century.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of them were in China: Beijing came in eighth and Shanghai 19th; both are expected to move up the ranks in future. The highest scoring Asian city, though, remains Singapore, which boasts a “tradition of British governance and law” and has infrastructure which is “among the best on the planet”.

Only one city in the developing world (Dubai) made the top 10. Others, like Sao Paulo, Abu Dhabi or Johannesburg, still need to “develop adequate infrastructure” if they hope to become contenders. 

Here’s the full top 10.

1. London

2. New York

3. Paris

4. Singapore

5. Tokyo

6. Hong Kong

7. Dubai

8. Beijing and Sydney [tied]

10. Los Angeles


As EU funding is lost, “levelling up” needs investment, not just rhetoric

Oh, well. Image: Getty.

Regional inequality was the foundation of Boris Johnson’s election victory and has since become one of the main focuses of his government. However, the enthusiasm of ministers championing the “levelling up” agenda rings hollow when compared with their inertia in preparing a UK replacement for European structural funding. 

Local government, already bearing the brunt of severe funding cuts, relies on European funding to support projects that boost growth in struggling local economies and help people build skills and find secure work. Now that the UK has withdrawn its EU membership, councils’ concerns over how EU funds will be replaced from 2021 are becoming more pronounced.

Johnson’s government has committed to create a domestic structural funding programme, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), to replace the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF). However, other than pledging that UKSPF will “reduce inequalities between communities”, it has offered few details on how funds will be allocated. A public consultation on UKSPF promised by May’s government in 2018 has yet to materialise.

The government’s continued silence on UKSPF is generating a growing sense of unease among councils, especially after the failure of successive governments to prioritise investment in regional development. Indeed, inequalities within the UK have been allowed to grow so much that the UK’s poorest region by EU standards (West Wales & the Valleys) has a GDP of 68 per cent of the average EU GDP, while the UK’s richest region (Inner London) has a GDP of 614 per cent of the EU average – an intra-national disparity that is unique in Europe. If the UK had remained a member of the EU, its number of ‘less developed’ regions in need of most structural funding support would have increased from two to five in 2021-27: South Yorkshire, Tees Valley & Durham and Lincolnshire joining Cornwall & Isles of Scilly and West Wales & the Valley. Ministers have not given guarantees that any region, whether ‘less developed’ or otherwise, will obtain the same amount of funding under UKSPF to which they would have been entitled under ESIF.

The government is reportedly contemplating changing the Treasury’s fiscal rules so public spending favours programmes that reduce regional inequalities as well as provide value for money, but this alone will not rebalance the economy. A shared prosperity fund like UKSPF has the potential to be the master key that unlocks inclusive growth throughout the country, particularly if it involves less bureaucracy than ESIF and aligns funding more effectively with the priorities of local people. 

In NLGN’s Community Commissioning report, we recommended that this funding should be devolved to communities directly to decide local priorities for the investment. By enabling community ownership of design and administration, the UK government would create an innovative domestic structural funding scheme that promotes inclusion in its process as well as its outcomes.

NLGN’s latest report, Cultivating Local Inclusive Growth: In Practice, highlights the range of policy levers and resources that councils can use to promote inclusive growth in their area. It demonstrates that, through collaboration with communities and cross-sector partners, councils are already doing sterling work to enhance economic and social inclusion. Their efforts could be further enhanced with a fund that learns lessons from ESIF’s successes and flaws: a UKSPF that is easier to access, designed and delivered by local communities, properly funded, and specifically targeted at promoting social and economic inclusion in regions that need it most. “Getting Brexit done” was meant to free up the government’s time to focus once more on pressing domestic priorities. “Getting inclusive growth done” should be at the top of any new to-do list.

Charlotte Morgan is senior researcher at the New Local Government Network.