Reform of England’s local government system is long overdue. There are currently 349 local and combined authorities with overlapping responsibilities and competing interests. This bureaucratic and complex system makes long-term strategic decision making difficult and holds back the places that need to be levelled up.

In his latest report Centre for Cities’ Policy Officer Simon Jeffrey proposed redrawing the English political map, replacing the 348 existing authorities with 69 unitary or combined ones with greater powers and resources and whose political boundaries match the economic geography in which people live and work.

For this episode of City Minutes, he joins Andrew Carter to discuss his proposals in more detail.

The Government launched the Eat Out To Help Out scheme to support the hospitality sector and encourage people to return to restaurants and cafes. More than 64 million meals were sold as part of the scheme, but it had mixed successes in city and town centres up and down the country.

Using footfall and spend data from the Centre for Cities High Streets Recovery Tracker, Researchers Valentine Quinio and Lahari Ramuni join Chief Executive Andrew Carter to evaluate the scheme and to make recommendations for what should replace it.

The killing of George Floyd in the US, the Black Lives Matter protests and Covid-19 have shone a spotlight on many of the systemic injustices that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people still face.

From interactions with the police to structural inequalities in our public services and many statues' problematic legacies, cities - where people from different backgrounds come together - are frequently the places where this is experienced most acutely. 

This week, London's Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility, Community Engagement Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard joins Andrew Carter to discuss her role in this key year, the effect of Black Lives Matter on her work and the the role that devolved policy makers should play in making cities' fairer places for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people.

For lots of young people, leaving their hometowns to head to university or build a career is an important rite of passage. Many people still head to London in search of those streets paved with gold but, in recent years, other cities such as Manchester and Glasgow have also drawn in increasing numbers of people. 

However, as a new paper from the Social Mobility Commission - Moving Out to Move On -  shows, those who choose to move to prosperous cities such as London are usually more from privileged backgrounds and have university degrees. Meanwhile, people from less privileged backgrounds are less likely to move altogether - and those that do tend to move to less economically successful areas and, as a result, have fewer opportunities open to them, even after they move.   

To discuss this issue in more detail, Andrew Carter is joined by Dr Dafni Papoutsaki, Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies and co-author of the Social Mobility Commission's new report. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has created an employment crisis.

There are now 730,000 fewer employed people in the UK than when lockdown began. However, different places have been hit harder than others. In Luton and Slough, the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits has risen by more than double than in York.

This variation means that unemployed people will have a much harder time getting a new job in some places than others. Our recent research with Indeed found that there is nine times more competition for a job in Middlesbrough than there is in Cambridge.  

To discuss the reasons behind this, and what policymakers can do to help out of work people, Andrew Carter is joined by Pawel Adrjan, Head of EMEA Research at Indeed and Economics Research Fellow at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford, and Elena Magrini, Senior Analyst at Centre for Cities.   

Cities have been epicenters of the global Covid-19 pandemic. While life for the public has changed immeasurably in just a few short months, urban authorities have also had to quickly respond to new challenges and responsibilities to keep their residents safe – often bringing them into conflict with national and state governments.

To discuss how the public and policymakers across the globe have adapted to the pressures of the pandemic, Andrew Carter is joined by resident experts from three cities:

  • CityMetric’s Editor Sommer Mathis, in New York City, USA
  • Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Salvador Adriana Campelo, in Salvador, Brazil
  • Centre for Cities’ Senior Analyst Kathrin Enenkel, in Berlin, Germany

Together they reflect on their own experiences in lockdown in cities across the world, and provide insight into how their city, state and national governments have handled the crisis.

The housing crisis remains one of the biggest challenges the UK faces. While many young people in high demand cities and towns struggle to afford decent accommodation, homeowners in parts of the Greater South East have gained vast amounts of housing wealth in recent years.

For this episode of City Minutes, Centre for Cities’ Housing Analyst Anthony Breach joins Andrew Carter to discuss his latest report Planning for the future: How flexible zoning will end the housing crisis.

Drawing concerning comparisons with the ‘shortage economies’ of the former Eastern Bloc, he argues that our discretionary, case-by-case planning system rations land, restricts the supply of new homes and decreases affordability. He calls for the UK to scrap this approach and adopt a flexible zoning system, as seen in countries such as Japan and parts of the USA.

While the representation (or lack) of women in the House of Commons is often discussed, female involvement at senior levels of local government and devolved urban authorities is rarely discussed. Perhaps as a result, there are currently no female metro mayors and just 21% of local authority leaders are female – often meaning that women and gender issues are frozen out of the local policy making process.

This week, Andrew Carter is joined by Professor Francesca Gains, Professor of Public Policy and Academic Co-Director of Policy@Manchester at the University of Manchester to discuss how having women in decision making positions and robust equalities legislation in place affects policymaking for the better.

Francesca highlights areas where there is significant under-representation of women, ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities, and explains how this plays out when forming the policy response, particularly in times of crisis.

Resources:

Nowhere is feeling the economic and social impact of Coronavirus more than UK’s cities and largest towns. In under ten minutes, Senior Analysts Elena Magrini and Kathrin Enenkel explain why the economic impact of the pandemic will be bigger in some places than others.

Kathrin reveals the geographic spread of the jobs predicted to be the most and least affected, while Elena highlights where has seen the biggest increase in unemployment since lockdown began.

Many expect the Coronavirus pandemic to bring about a working from home revolution. But while technology means that some work can be done anywhere, cities remain the setting for allowing the face-to-face economy to function.

What is it about face-to-face interaction that means firms are willing to pay eye-watering rents to locate in city centres? What aspects behaviour cannot be replicated online? And will the initial decision by some firms to allow more home-working last beyond the pandemic?

This week, Andrew Carter is joined by Jonathan Reades, Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Human Geography at King's College London and Martin Crooktson, strategic planning consultant and former member of the Urban Task Force, to discuss face-to-face interaction and why cities still matter in the information age.


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