21 July 2014

Leading business representatives from across Sheffield have met to discuss how the major cities could be more economically competitive if power in the UK was less centralised.

With guest speakers Cllr. Sir Richard Leese, the Leader of Manchester City Council and Chair of the Core Cities Cabinet and Andrew Carter, Deputy Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities, business leaders and the City Council discussed how devolution could drive economic growth and create jobs in Sheffield.

Of central importance to the meeting is how Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester could play a bigger role in the national economy if they had the power to make more decisions locally over things like skills and training and transport investment.

Leader of Sheffield City Council, Cllr Julie Dore, who co-chairs the Business Advisor Panel said: “Sheffield’s businesses recognise the difference we could make to the local economy if only Government would give us the tools to do the job.

“Cities like Sheffield are where economic growth happens. They are the key sources of business, innovation, culture, research and employment in the country. But every city is different. How can civil servants in Whitehall know what is best for Sheffield’s economy? It’s not rocket science – you can’t expect the skills and training needs of businesses in Sheffield to be the same as Southampton.”

Sir Richard emphasised the huge economic opportunity for Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester to work together and build on each city’s economic strengths to create an economic powerhouse in the North that is big enough to compete with other major global cities. But, to achieve this, Sir Richard stressed that we need better transport links, connecting up the cities.

Paul Houghton, Partner at Grant Thornton and co-chair of the Business Advisor Panel commented: “If the UK is to be a more competitive, attractive place to do business, it needs to release and harness the latent capacity of its cities and enable those cities to punch their weight on an international scale.

“International studies have shown that, where countries have more devolved local control and a stronger performing group of cities, they tend to do better economically. But English cities are not competing on a level playing field, which is undermining UK economic growth and hindering the UK from making full use of its economic assets. The tight central control of finances, local infrastructure development and skills provision has limited what can be achieved in cities and city regions like Sheffield.”

As part of the ‘Think Cities’ campaign, Centre for Cities’ Deputy Chief Executive, Andrew Carter, stressed that businesses in cities have a vital role in persuading Government to give cities the control over decisions and money they need to drive growth and create jobs.

Andrew added: “There is real momentum behind the push for devolution and we have seen all the main political parties making positive announcements towards delivering greater devolution ahead of the 2015 General Election.

“But, we need more than words; we need the parties to Think Cities and make commitments in their manifestos to give our cities real powers to drive growth. And it’s not just politicians and thinkers who are on-board; businesses across our major cities, like Sheffield and Manchester, want to see our cities better equipped to punch their weight and contribute more to the national economy.”

The Centre for Cities will be including the feedback from the local businesses who attended the meeting into their wider campaign activity.


Notes for editors:
The English Core Cities Group comprises: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham and Sheffield.
The eight Core Cities in England are home to 16 million people and together contribute more to the national economy than London. For more information, see http://www.corecities.com/ and the City Centred campaign for devolution with London here: http://www.citycentred.co.uk/
Cities are the driving force of the global economy and by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. Over the next decade, 62 percent of global economic growth will come from cities.
UK cities take up just 9 percent of the land mass but account for 58 percent of jobs, 60 percent of the economy and 72 percent of high skilled workers.
Internationally, major cities regularly out-perform their national economies, but in England, only London consistently does so, which means that the national economy is missing out. If the eight Core Cities performed to the national economic average, £1.3 billion could be added to the national economy every year.
Compared to other international cities, English cities are limited in the power they have to make decisions and invest in growth. English cities only have direct control of around 5 percent of the tax raised locally while 95 percent is controlled and directed by Central Government.
Cities in Canada, USA, Sweden and Germany have up to 10 times more local financial control meaning that they can make investment decisions about their economy and services which are focused on unique local needs, assets and opportunities.
Think Cities is a campaign with city and business leaders, sector and policy experts, and the academic community, to make the case for cities ahead of the General Election in 2015. You can find out more here: http://thinkcities.org.uk/

For further information please contact Warwick Toone, Media Relations Officer on 07764 659182 or 0114 205 3546. E-mail: warwick.toone@sheffield.gov.uk. For out of office media enquiries ring 07711 153995.