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Industrial strategy must ‘exploit national strengths’ and focus on cities

Efforts to grow the UK’s economy must focus on investing in cities because of their key role in the UK’s economy, think tank Centre for Cities has said.

In its latest briefing paper, ‘Trading Places’, it says that city centres make up 0.1% of the area of Britain but are home to 8.1% of businesses and 14.4% of jobs.

Suburban areas, which make up 8.6% of the country, hold an even larger proportion of its economy, with 44.2% of businesses and 44.3% of jobs.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “National leaders have come a long way in the past six years in recognising the diverse roles that different places, and cities in particular, can play in generating growth and contributing to the national economy. It’s crucial that the new government continues to build on this progress, if it is to achieve its vision of raising prosperity for people across the country.

“A strategy to extend economic opportunity and prosperity will need policies that work with the grain of the national economy and exploit its strengths. That means taking advantage of the increasingly important role that cities play in generating jobs and growth, and the opportunities this creates for people living in surrounding areas, as well as supporting the long-term shift towards knowledge-based services in Britain and other developed economies.”

Cities are most popular among the growing sector of service exporters, with 61% of their businesses and 69% of their jobs located in cities.

Earlier this month, Theresa May chaired the first meeting of a new Cabinet committee established to deliver “an economy that works for everyone”.

The prime minister said: “We need a plan to drive growth up and down the country, from rural areas to our great cities.”

Centre for Cities said that the government’s new industrial strategy “needs to start from a place-based perspective”.

It said it needs “a deeper understanding of the different advantages that different places offer to businesses” and should not “micro-manage” businesses’ location decisions.

In June, Jones warned that the UK’s vote to leave the European Union could cause the devolution process to “come to a standstill”.

(Image c. Philip Toscano from PA Wire and Press Association Images)

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