Newcastle city leader: “EU membership is vital to cities like mine”

The Tyne Bridges in 2001. Image: Getty.

The Labour leader of Newcastle council on the role EU funding as played in regenerating his city.

Job creation underpins my every aim in the city. It is both as simple and as important as that.

I know that in every service we deliver, and in every bit of planning and strategy we produce, it all has to build towards a sustainable growing economy that brings opportunity for local residents. And it’s this same focus on building a vibrant and prosperous local economy that means I’ll be voting to remain in the EU referendum in June.

From developing local businesses and jobs, to protecting working people and supporting our health and environment, Britain’s EU membership is vital to the places we serve. If we leave Europe, it is our communities that will be hardest hit, and the futures of our local people that will be put at risk.

In Newcastle, since I became leader in 2011 we have spent years working to defy the effects of the economic downturn and spending cuts imposed by Westminster. We’ve done this by creating the infrastructure for growth, be it building offices or bike lanes, and finding new ways to secure the investment opportunities that underpin thousands of jobs across the city.

Look at the skyline in Newcastle and you see cranes because we are building for business. Look at the roads and you see we are investing in making it easier to get around the city.


But economic growth in the UK’s major cities would be put at risk by Brexit. Between 2014-2020 the North East stands to benefit from £205m of European Regional Development Fund money which will provide 50 per cent of the revenue or capital funding to support investment in innovation, businesses, low carbon and climate change projects and create jobs.

The EU is by far the UK’s largest trading partner and the world’s largest single market; half of our exports go to EU countries, worth £227bn in 2014 to the UK economy, and over 200,000 British companies export to the EU. The economic damage that leaving the EU would bring would wreak havoc on our local businesses and make it harder than ever for Councils to deliver the services people rely on. 

The economies of our core cities have undergone radical transformation since the days when tens of thousands of people did back-breaking manual jobs in heavy industry. We now have a modern, diverse, economy with strong companies and sectors, including offshore engineering, professional services and the digital sector. Right now Newcastle and other major cities are growing and have a bright future. The recent downturn threatened to derail our aspirations but Brexit could kill them almost entirely.

Local councils have already had to make substantial cuts to their budgets over the last six years, and leaving the EU will represent a further funding black hole. The government’s decision to devolve business rates relies on economic growth: the disastrous economic effects of Brexit could mean catastrophe for our councils’ ability to deliver the services people rely on, as our income would simply fall through the floor.

In almost every area of council work, leaving the EU would have a negative impact. In a reformed EU, the UK’s major cities can be the drivers of a new prosperity and opportunity that leads to greater equality and a more socially just Britain. But outside it, our economy may crash, the social protections given to our workers could be stripped away and the common standards that help incentivise a cleaner environment wouldn’t be enforced.

So on 23 June, for the sake of our communities, myself and council leaders representing over 12m people will be voting to remain. 

Nick Forbes is the Labour leader of Newcastle Council. 

This article previously appeared on our sister site, the Staggers.

 
 
 
 

CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit citymonitor.ai going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.


As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.