Clusters such as Silicon Valley are liked by policymakers for many reasons. They are visible, often prestigious, and are effectively cities in miniature. They take the things that make urban economies work and amplify and concentrate them in a particular place.
London's Tech City programme was launched in 2010 to accelerate its tech cluster in Shoreditch and, by 2014, the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson was hailing it a huge success.
But did the policy have any effect? And how might you approach evaluation when there are no like-for-like comparators?
For this episode of City Talks, Dr Max Nathan joins Andrew Carter to discuss his recent paper 'Does light touch cluster policy work? Evaluating the Tech City programme'.

Cities Outlook 2020 takes an in-depth look at air pollution. Our research finds that poor air quality tends to be worse in urban areas, affecting the health of residents and workers and killing thousands each year. Senior Analyst Kathrin Enenkel and Researcher Valentine Quinio join Andrew Carter to discuss the main findings and recommendations from the report and to call for urgent action from local and national government to clean up the air we breathe.

Since the UK general election, there has been much discussion about using R&D as an instrument to level-up the country. But policymakers are grappling with exactly how to support more innovation-led growth in the North and Midlands.

Chief Executive Andrew Carter is joined by Mark Muro, Senior Fellow and Policy Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution and co-author of a recent paper, The case for growth centers: How to spread tech innovation across America. Mark and Andrew discuss the proposals to transform a handful of places in the US into self-sustaining ‘growth centres’, and how this might be replicated in the UK context.

Sao Paulo University’s Professor Raquel Rolnik joins Andrew Carter to discuss her book, Urban Warfare: Housing Under the Empire of Finance. Using examples from across the globe, she argues that our cities have been commercialised and charts how the financial crisis and wider urban politics have left millions homeless and in financial desperation across the world.

Professor Rolnik’s work has been informed by her appointment as the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing in 2008, just as the financial crisis hit. Prior to this, inadequate housing was largely limited to developing countries but the crash provoked situations of precarious housing conditions in many richer countries, including the UK.

In a sign that the ‘Greta Effect’ is cutting through the political agenda, the 2019 Urban Voices City Leaders' Survey found that half of city council leaders and directly elected mayors now rank the environment as a top priority.

But are they getting enough to support to address the challenge from central government?

To discuss this issue and more, Centre for Cities' Chief Executive Andrew Carter is joined by the think tank's Policy Officer Simon Jeffrey and Arup's Chief Economist Alexander Jan.

The 2019 general election has been framed by many as the towns' election. Both of the main parties regard winning the votes of people living in so-called ‘left behind towns’ in the Midlands and the North as crucial to winning the election.

Why are these towns so important to the election and what are the main parties offering them to win them over? To explore these and other election issues, Andrew Carter is joined by Will Tanner, Director at Onward and Rachel Lawrence Director of Programmes and Practice at the New Economics Foundation.

Financial incentives are often used by policymakers to attract big businesses to locate in a place and deliver jobs and growth.

But do they actually make any difference? 

Economic development and incentives expert Tim Bartik joins Andrew Carter to debunk the biggest assumptions made by policymakers in this field, revealing that 75% of the time, the same number of jobs would have been created without any incentives at all.

Tim and Andrew cover recent high-profile cases such as Amazon’s much-criticised plans for the location of its second headquarters in Virginia and New York City and Wisconsin’s $4 billion state and local tax incentives to Foxxconn in the promise of 13,000 new jobs that never materialised. 

Tim reveals the opportunity costs, spillovers and leakages that offering a high cash-per-job price tag create, and instead sets out a better way to achieve inclusive local economic growth and good jobs for all.

Background reading:

Bus deregulation promised to give passengers more choice and lower fares but thirty years on it has failed. At a time when more people should be switching from cars to public transport to tackle congestion and air pollution, bus numbers are decreasing in almost every city in the UK outside London. 

Simon Jeffrey, policy officer at the Centre for Cities joins Chief Executive Andrew Carter to set out how metro mayors should begin the process of bringing local bus networks under their control via franchising in order to support economic growth, reduce congestion and improve air quality in cities. 

Background reading: 

Disadvantaged places combine low levels of economic activity with high proportions of vulnerable people that have complex needs to support. The last decade of cuts to local authority budgets has made it harder for councils to effectively support these places with less funding.

It is against this backdrop that the What Works Centres embarked on a project to focus on how the better use of evidence-based policy might help. 

To discuss the issue and findings from the report, Andrew Carter is joined by Meg Kaufman — Project Manager at the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, Henry Overman — Director of the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, Mike Hawking — Policy and Partnerships Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and Eleanor Stringer — Head of Strategy and Policy at the Youth Futures Foundation.

Britain’s jobs miracle has been widely discussed. Most commentators agree that, despite Britain’s economic uncertainty, the labour market remains robust. But go below these national headlines and explore the labour market in different cities across the country and a more complicated picture emerges.

In under ten minutes, Chief Executive Andrew Carter speaks to Analyst Elena Magrini about latest research by the Centre for Cities and the OECD into economic inactivity.

Background reading: 

Centre for Cities
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