Mark Adair

London businesses urge the government to invest in regional cities

London businesses are calling for the government to commit to a growth target for cities across the country that at least matches that seen in the capital before the pandemic.

A new report commissioned by London HQ, an alliance of four central London Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) - reveals the untapped potential of cities to contribute an extra £63bn by 2030, should they have London-level growth targets.

However, the findings warn that too strong a focus on the areas outside of the most economically productive hubs would halt growth across these cities, including London, resulting in £21bn in lost output each year as they start to lag behind.

The report calls for the government to deliver on a programme of ambitious, meaningful devolution and place more power with local authorities, and potentially businesses, as well as sufficient, sustainable funding to make levelling up a reality.

The report highlights that a younger demographic is a key attribute of our largest cities, with 16 – 34-year-olds making up almost one third (30 per cent) of cities’ population, versus one fifth (22 per cent) in less densely populated areas.

As young people in England become the first generation to be less financially stable than those before them1, London HQ warns of the implications of underinvestment in capital cities, and calls for more support to ensure England’s youth can continue to contribute to the livelihood of cities.

Ruth Duston, CEO of London HQ, which comprises of the Victoria, Victoria Westminster, Whitehall and Northbank BIDs, said, “the government must recognise the importance of our largest cities, but London should not be held back by the levelling up agenda and we cannot shy away from the vital role it plays as our largest city.

“If we are to make a success of levelling up and come through the crises of Covid and the cost of living emergency, London must be allowed to grow in the most London-like way possible, exploring how best to enhance devolution in the capital, just as Manchester must be equipped to grow in a way that suits Manchester and so on.

Matthew Oakley, Director, WPI Economics, said: “the UK’s cities are central to the future competitiveness of the UK. By bringing people, businesses and ideas together, cities are the powerhouse of innovation that our economy will need as we face the covid pandemic, cost of living crisis and need to rapidly decarbonise the economy.”

The ‘Connecting for Prosperity’ report also finds that the UK’s second-tier (such as Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds) lag behind similar cities in countries such as Germany, Australia and Canada, warning that the UK must invest more to improve its global competitive edge lest it have a negative impact on the whole economy.

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