Today I met with leaders of the UK’s Core Cities. We covered a range of issues. Among them:
Brexit – We shared concerns that the government has fallen into the trap of pursuing a Brexit built around the needs of Westminster rather than the need of the UK and its largest cities. Indications to date suggest Brexit will be bad for UK cities. A soft Brexit could cost UK cities 1.2% of total economic output and a hard Brexit 2.3%. We urgently need to broaden the government’s approach to a Brexit that takes into account the needs of all UK cities. We also discussed our upcoming meeting with European Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier, and how we would frame the offer of post Brexit (should it proceed) relationship between UK cities, European cities, countries and the EU.
Social Cohesion – The cities shared their various challenges including tackling political extremism, inequality and giving the “domestic” community the confidence and resilience necessary to be able to cope with social change. That took the question beyond merely getting people together to trust each other to tackling political alienation and economic disadvantage.
Street Scene – We discussed the need for cities to get the powers needed to shape their city centres. From business waste to chugging to begging to advertising and planning, the legislation covering these areas is often out of date and sits across different government departments. This makes change cumbersome. At the end of the day we met with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid who promised to look at our proposals on how we bring order to this less than satisfactory situation.
Andrew Gwynne MP – The leaders met with the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Andrew Gwynne. We discussed the ongoing challenge of local government finance and the need for Labour to set out a clear and advanced position on devolution, to whom and what geography. After being asked he reiterated the need for Labour run councils to set their budget in line with the law and set balanced budgets. We tackled the need for health to be more locally accountable, in line with the origins of local government, many of whom started out with the priority of improving health.
Sajid Javid MP – At the end of the day we met Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. Building on our Core Cities Green Paper we worked through issues of house building, changes to bring greater tenant security to the private rental sector, and the number of plots with planning permissions that remain undeveloped. We looked at local government finance including the pressures on adult social care and children’s services. We made the case that the savings options available to councils now, having worked through countless efficiencies, will impact front line services including early intervention and prevention. Core Cities will now have regular meetings with the DCLG team.