Key Cities launches All-Party Parliamentary Group

Lord Foster Baroness Eaton Emma Reynolds

Yesterday in the House of Commons, MPs and peers launched the Key Cities All-Party Parliamentary Group to give a new voice for city empowerment and devolution, alongside council leaders and chief executives representing the group’s member cities.

Emma Reynolds, Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East, and Conor Burns, Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, were nominated to serve as co-chairs of the Group, while Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland and Baroness Eaton were elected to serve as the other officers.

Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council and Chair of the Key Cities Group, reflected on how far the Group had come since Coventry, Derby, Preston, Sunderland and Wakefield founded it in 2013. He also spoke about cities’ common challenge in achieving inclusive growth with real economic opportunity: “What unites us is a conviction that we must play a role in driving this country forward – but Government needs to understand the barriers city leaders face in rising to this challenge.
“Properly empowered, we can enable our cities to thrive, contribute to national economic growth and ensure and that no community is left behind.”

Emma Reynolds emphasised the importance of building an inclusive industrial strategy to restore quality employment and prosperity: “We haven’t upskilled our people enough. There are people who do feel left behind. We need an inclusive, positive, forward-looking industrial strategy to provide opportunity. If you are a young person growing up in Wolverhampton, or Sunderland, or Bournemouth or Bradford, you should have the same opportunities as a young person growing up anywhere else.”

Lord Foster recalled how he had entered politics “to give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless” and emphasised how much local government could achieve for its residents with the right capabilities. Baroness Eaton reminded the gathered city leaders and MPs to continue campaigning to promote local government and the good work it could do to provide quality service and opportunities for local constituents. She said “a single voice doesn’t get heard. A united voice does.”

John Cridland, former Managing Director of the CBI, and now Chair of Transport for the North, joined the event as a guest speaker. He urged local authorities to seek close cooperation and integration of their objectives with the work of local businesses, and stressed the need for a new “civic revolution” to match the progress Britain’s cities made in the 1870s in providing quality transport, housing, and other infrastructure for their citizens.

Paul Watson endorsed her call, and closed the event by looking forward to further cooperation between Parliamentarians and local leaders to ensuring that the UK’s cities are placed on a sustainable footing with shared prosperity.
The Key Cities APPG plans to meet again in the New Year.