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Autumn Statement ‘should boost cities to allow them to compete with Europe’

Boosting the growth of cities in order to allow them to compete with their European counterparts should be a priority of the Autumn Statement, influential think tank Centre for Cities has said.

Its latest report, ‘Competing with the Continent’, says that cities play a greater role in the UK economy than in equivalent European economies. Around 60% of the UK’s output is generated in cities, higher than any other country, with 24% of its output concentrated in London alone.

The think tank argued that the government should foster a stronger economy in cities in order to prepare the UK economy for leaving the European Union. This should particularly involve high-skill industries, as manufacturing industries are more likely to relocate to Eastern Europe because of the lower costs.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “No other economy in Europe is so dependent on the performance of its cities, yet too many of the UK’s urban areas are failing to realise their potential. For the country to thrive in the years to come, it’s vital that the Government works with cities to address the skills and productivity gaps holding most places back.

“In particular, the government should ensure that any new funding commitments in the Autumn Statement focus on boosting the key drivers of growth in cities, such as skills, transport and housing.

“Over the long-term, it should also build on its devolution agenda by giving places the powers they need – and which European counterparts already enjoy – to grow their local economies.”

Centre for Cities said that planning policies should create commercial space in city centres in a way that encourages ‘knowledge spillovers’, where businesses located close to each other are able to share information.

It argued transport policy should invest in links between city centres and residential areas, allowing businesses access to a wider pool of labour and make it easier for workers.

The think tank also recommended supporting more workers to gain mid-level qualifications such as GCSEs and A-levels, so that the UK’s pool of skilled workers will be similar to Europe.

(Image c. Daniel Leal-Olivas from PA Wire and Press Association Images)

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