For far too long the ambitions, needs and values of nine million people in towns across Britain have not been heard.
Our economic model treats cities as engines of growth, which at best drag surrounding towns along in their wake, causing life to become harder, less secure and less hopeful for too many people in towns in recent decades.
Our political system is blind to the values and experiences of people who live in our towns, wrongly treating cities as a proxy for the national opinion.
After the EU Referendum starkly exposed the growing gulf between towns and cities, it is clear that this is no longer sustainable.
That’s why we’ve launched the Centre for Towns, a partnership of academics, analysts and activists. Over the coming months, we’ll make available the largest dataset about towns across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And we’ll publish research that gives a voice to the needs, hopes and experiences of people in towns and re-examines a political and economic model that has failed to deliver.
For far too long towns have been ignored, patronised and labelled ‘left behind’ allowing the assets, skills and aspirations within them to go untapped and unrealised. Those assets are alive and well in towns like Wigan, where the protecting the environment and good public services are a priority, and skills, tightly knit communities and a strong sense of shared history and identity are plentiful. With the right thinking, they hold the clue to a better future.
Throughout our history, our great towns and cities have been engines of progress that have driven economic growth and enabled us to build a better Britain. The future must belong to both. This is the country, as George Orwell said, "that is only just beneath the surface" and it must be heard.