Britain after Brexit: An agenda-setting budget

It is time to deliver on those promises…

On coming into power, the Government promised to level up the country and move the country to Net Zero by 2050. Both are popular policies: research by Kings College published last week identified geographic imbalances as the inequality of most concern to the public; and our research with the European Climate Foundation found strong support across the whole country for action to protect the environment.

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Levelling Up: It’s About More Than Infrastructure

Although his proposed freeze on public sector pay outside of the NHS and reduction in the share of GDP for foreign aid were extremely mean-spirited, the Chancellor largely resisted the temptation to squeeze public finances too hard in the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review. Instead he concentrated on trying to limit the long-term economic consequences of the current crisis, allocating over £4 Billion to support the labour market by helping people back into work. 

Important as short-term support for the economy is, the Chancellor’s announcements on the future direction of policy were eagerly awaited. After nearly a year in office, the Government has provided little insight on how it plans to deliver on its commitment to “levelling up”. For the first time, we were given a glimpse of how the Government plans to level up the economy: areas outside of London and the South East will receive a significant share of the £100 Billion on public investment in 2020/21 on a revised National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS). 

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Weekly bulletin on COVID-related job losses, 14th July

COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on people’s lives and the economy. Not every industry has been able to shift to remote working and even those that have, have often experienced great reductions in demand. In the last few months, businesses in the UK have started responding to losses in revenue by announcing extensive job cuts.

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The “Levelling up” Budget – towns are still waiting

Forty years of hurt…

The Government has made it very clear that “levelling up”, reducing geographic inequalities in the UK economy, is one of its top priorities. With details as to what the policy means in practice thin on the ground in the Conservative Party manifesto, the budget was eagerly anticipated as the moment when the Government made ”levelling up” real. We are still waiting.

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"Why aren't more places outside London like Cambridge?"

At the Centre for Towns we have been wrestling with how to rebalance the economic geography of the UK for a long time, certainly before “levelling up” became a thing. It is welcome given how challenging we have found it to devise solutions that will have the desired effect, that the greater focus on the issue has simulated a large number of new contributions to the cause.

The latest such effort by MPs Bim Afolami and Laura Trott, developed after a recent discussion between themselves, could in their words:

“be summed up thus — why aren’t more places outside London like Cambridge?

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Mark Gregory Appointed Centre For Towns Director

The Centre For Towns is proud to announce and welcome Mark Gregory, Chief Economist at EY (UK) and member of the UK Government’s Trade Advisory Group on Investment, as its 4th Director. 

Mark Gregory joins the Centre For Towns with over 30 years’ experience as a business economist in over 40 countries, advising governments and industry on economics, policy and regulation. 

With over 30 years working as a business economist in the UK and internationally, Mark Gregory is a leading voice on the UK economy and will bring an understanding of how best to engage the corporate sector in addressing the unique challenges facing our towns. 

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Chancellor's statement: No sign of levelling up

The Government’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19 was unprecedented in both scale and speed and was reasonably successful in protecting the economy through the most stringent period of lockdown. However, job losses have accelerated in recent weeks and, as restrictions have been eased, the sheer scale of the challenge facing the UK economy has become clear: businesses have cut back capital expenditure and consumers are reluctant to return to their normal patterns of activity.

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Budget 2020; what we'll be looking for

In tomorrow's Budget, the Chancellor and the government will rightly want to lay out how the economy deals with COVID-19 (Coronavirus). On that specific point, we at the Centre For Towns have produced extensive research showing the geographical distribution of an ageing population (towns getting older, cities getting younger). So, given that we know older people are most at risk from COVID-19, the issue of geography is likely to be important. That said, dealing with COVID-19 is obviously a priority for the Chancellor and the country and we hope the issue is covered well and in detail.

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Can towns benefit from the virtual economy?

 Covid-19 and the policy response to it have had a profound impact across UK economy and society. Devastating as the pandemic has been, the changes in behaviour under lockdown have allowed us to experiment with new ways of living and working. We at the Centre for Towns are keen to identify how we can seize the opportunities that have emerged. The significant increase in “homeworking” is the first such opportunity we have chosen to explore in detail. 

Faced with the unprecedented shock of Covid-19, businesses that could shifted to homeworking. So successful was the move – 47% of employees reported they were working at home in April[1] – it raised concerns about the future economic model of the UK’s cities. For the first time, the priority afforded to “agglomeration” in UK economic policy[2] started to be questioned. City-led growth has been a core feature of UK government policy for some time with the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine two of the more recent, high profile initiatives, under the City/Region policy framework. 

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Empty theatre

Rethinking the Arts

 It has been widely reported that the COVID-19 crisis has severely affected the UK economy and many employers have had to announce redundancies. Since March, 695,000 workers in the UK have lost their job and a recent report by the ONS estimated that the unemployment rate rose 4.1% in the three month up to July. Economists had predicted an even worse scenario due to the current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (i.e. furlough) expiring at the end of October, with predictions of a “tsunami” of job cuts, though the Chancellor has since announced a replacement, the Job Support Scheme, to help top-up wages of some workers. 

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Football on the brink?

The shock announcement that Wigan Athletic FC have gone into administration once again highlights the lack of leadership and governance in English football. In the last year, three other clubs from the game’s North West heartland, Bury, Bolton Wanderers and Macclesfield Town have faced financial troubles, with Bury forced to drop out of the Football League, yet at the same time Manchester and Liverpool each boast teams amongst the richest in Europe.

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Our funding

The Centre For Towns is committed to funding transparency in accordance with Who Funds You? principles. Here we list our total income for the last reported year as well as all sources of income over £1,000. The Centre For Towns carries out original research on its own behalf, or in collaboration with external partners.

2018/2019 income: £17,000

Donations over £1,000

Ernst and Young: £2,000

Royal Institute of British Architects: £5,000

Arts Council England: £10,000

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