Key Cities Blog

June 2017
First published on 30 June CityMetric read here:  The Government’s deal with the DUP has come in for a lot of criticism recently, but I actually think it’s a good sign. It shows that the intellectual arguments for austerity are finished, and that the country is ready, and indeed, is demanding, to move on. Like anyone, I have doubts over the timing and nature of Theresa May’s sudden conversion to investment in public services, but I don’t think we are well-served by complaining about it, or attacking the DUP. The DUP fought their corner, fought for their constituents, and won valuable money...
March 2017
When I first sat down to write this, I thought I’d have a little time to reflect  on the budget as it was delivered. Instead, the events of last Wednesday, which saw the Chancellor perform a significant U-turn on the proposed National Insurance rise, generated even more turbulence and dominated headlines. But where does this leave us? In the run-up to the Budget, the Chancellor was in a difficult position – the official projections for economic growth weren’t particularly good, and he was faced with the task of readying the economy for Brexit. He was also faced with severe financial...
January 2017
Featured in CityMetric January 31 read article here Few people would consider the publication of a Green Paper a big moment for our country. The Green Paper last week was an honourable exception since it put into black ink the words “industrial strategy”. Many of us in local government – and particularly in my area of the country – have been waiting years to hear those words from Westminster. The Green Paper reminds us of the brutal facts about economic inequality across the United Kingdom. By now, these are very familiar: a wide discrepancy in educational attainment across the country,...
December 2016
For me, the one lesson that can be taken away from this memorable year, is to not take anything for granted. Our politics, and global politics, have been shaken, at the same time as deep social and structural changes in our country are reaching critical points. The effect on policymaking is destabilising – we either see sudden, radical departure, or jolting, “stop-go” reforms, as political leadership adjusts to an uncertain environment by changing their minds frequently, as their calculations change. It is not a great environment for calm, collected policymaking to address the challenges of...
October 2016
Featured in CityMetric October 17 read article here On 30 September, for the first time since 2010, the Valuation Office Agency published revised property values used to calculate how much firms across England only owe in business rates. The government says that the revaluation would be fiscally neutral – but while the overall burden will not rise, but rather will be redistributed across the country. Here, Paul Watson, the Labour leader of Sunderland council and chair of the Key Cities group of 26 mid-sized cities, warns that the change could disadvantage areas of the country beyond the rich...
October 2016
I start this by saying I campaigned for a Remain vote.  I thought it was the duty of local government to speak out about the benefits of the EU, and I did. We have our result now, and it is our duty to make the most of departure from the European Union. I do not for a moment underestimate the challenge we face, but my feeling is that we now have to focus on finding silver linings in times of political turmoil and economic uncertainty.   The crass American expression is “don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” If the referendum has done one good thing, it has shattered a key assumption of our...

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