Today we’ve published an update for LGiU Scotland members on the growing importance of city deals to Scotland. Earlier this week our briefings commissioner Kim Fellows attended a Centre for Cities roundtable on making the most of Scottish cities.
At the event I attended this week, Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, spoke passionately about the need for partnership between all players, nationally and locally. He focused on the need to take action on four key themes – productivity, innovation, skills and inclusion – if local government and all partners are to make the most of the city deals on offer. Local authorities, he said, should also look to build on their existing powers of wellbeing and strengthening communities.
Other panelists talked about the opportunities that Glasgow and Edinburgh – the former the fastest growing city in the UK, and the latter the city with the second most successful economy outside London – that city deals present. With the announcement of Stirling’s city deal in last week’s Autumn Statement, two thirds of Scottish councils are now involved in city deals. The Cabinet Secretary says there is a need for other cities – Aberdeen, Inverness, Stirling, Dundee and Perth – as well as surrounding regions to benefit from city deals.
However, there is an awareness that not everyone benefits equally from these opportunities. Glasgow has a highly skilled workforce, but areas of the city are amongst the most deprived in the UK. Meanwhile, 25 percent of young people in Edinburgh attend private schools – but 25 percent of the city’s young people live in poverty. The challenge for local authorities is to ensure that everyone benefits from the success that city deals can bring.
The chair of the event – Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, Alexandra Jones – identified four key themes. First, the need for economic growth to be inclusive economic growth, so that everyone benefits from the city deals. Second, working with the private sector to deliver on the ambitions of the city deals is essential. Third, the successful delivery of a city deal requires not only money but also time, ambition and vision – in the short term and also in the long term. City Deals can and should bring improvements beyond simple economic gains, including in housing, office accommodation, health, retention of trained qualified staff and communications.
Finally, cities are important – but not everything happens in cities. The surrounding areas are vitally important too.
My reflection after the discussion is that in these times of continued financial pressure, city deals feel like one of the most important opportunities that local government has. As we point out in today’s member-only briefing on city deals, it is highly unusual for Scottish councils to receive capital funding from the UK Government. Local authorities now have the opportunity to show what is possible and what can be delivered for everyone living and working in Scotland.