Podcast: Globalised cities and their discontents

London and New York, united in being disdained. Image: Getty.

Some dates are destined to live in infamy. 1066; August 4th, 1914.

This is not one of those dates.

It is, however, a pretty big day for us as it sees the release of the first ever episode of Skylines, the CityMetric podcast. On it, you can hear Barbara and I talk about a topic that's pretty close to many a metropolitan liberal's heart: why does everyone seem to hate us? Or, to be more specific, what is it about world cities like London that seems to inspire as much loathing as admiration?

To help us answer this question, we talk to Tom Forth, the writer, consultant and professional Yorkshireman, to get a northern view on London's dominance. We also talk to Elizabeth Minkel to get a US perspective on both London and New York.

From here on in, with the help of our excellent producer Roifield Brown, we're planning to do one of these every two weeks. You can find us on Acast here. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed, or on iTunes

Or you can just listen to the latest episode right here:

Some relevant links...

  • Tom Forth is the man who revealed that the UK's airport isn't in London at all. It's actually in Amsterdam. He's on Twitter, probably shouting about regional injustice, as @thomasforth.
  • Back in January 2015, Elizabeth Minkel wrote this great piece for us on NYC's reaction to Winter Storm Juno (" there’s a sudden realisation that residents of four out of the five New York City boroughs live on islands"). She's also on Twitter as @elizabethminkel, and has her own podcast, Fansplaining, co-hosted with Flourish Klink.
  • Lastly, here's our map of the week, showing that all roads really do lead to Rome:

You can read more about it here.


Here's a helpful reminder that you can subscribe to the podcast via our RSS feed, or on iTunesYou can also find us on Acast here

 
 
 
 

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.