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Tuesday, March 07, 2006
State of the Cities report
The government's State of the Cities report is out today. I may write more about this in due course, but here are a few key headlines:

Much to my surprise, London ranks 23rd in a table of European cities by GDP per capita. Almost all the cities that come above us are German (what happened to their supposed recession?) headed in first place by Frankfurt, with a per capita GDP of €74,465, over double London's at €35,072.

London and the south-east continue to outperform everywhere else. The key message is that "Closing the gap across the country remains a large challenge and is not quickly achieved." In all areas, London is exceptional - population growth, growth in the inner city, growth in self-employed people and age profile. There's a clear message that London's success should not be taken as an indicator of national city performance.

In general, British cities under-perform compared to European ones and should learn from the increasing devolution of powers abroad to mayors etc - "The most successful cities in Europe have been German, which is the most decentralised country in Europe"

And we apparently don't even want to live in our cities, "The quest for the ‘rural idyll’ appears just as strong nationally as in the past, according to opinion polls and as evidenced by continued high levels of net out-migration from England’s larger cities." 37% of the national population wanted to ideally live in a village, with only 5% ideally wanting to live in a large city, which I find extraordinary. Even in London, over half the population did not want to live in a big city or its outskirts. Are we all this unhappy?

Social cohesion is improving but still needs a lot of work. "The level of deprivation is higher and more widespread in cities than in other parts of the country. There are higher levels of unemployment and worklessness. The health of the population is generally less good. The gap between poor and better-off neighbourhoods is bigger than elsewhere. Residential segregation is quite high, based on income, wealth, employment status and ethnicity. Educational attainment in schools is lower than elsewhere. The rate of recorded crime is generally higher."

Interestingly, with regard to public attitudes in urban and non-urban areas, in politics "Only one political issue, proportional representation, attracted a significantly different reaction in urban and non-urban areas, with the latter being more in favour."

In the rest of the report, the most valuable thing is that it has created a real evidence base for policy-making. Much of the findings correlate with what one would expect, but it is useful to be able to cite statistics. Policy-wise it give strong support to the idea of city regions with strong devolved leadership. I'm sure over the next few days we'll get a raft of comment from the thinktanks and commentators, which I will endeavour to keep you updated with. In the mean time, here's the BBC and the Guardian's initial reaction.


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