A Better Balanced Britain

On Wednesday 7th May 2014, RREF hosted its Annual Debate, this year focusing on A Better, Balanced Britain. The event was kindly hosted by international law firm Hogan Lovells at their Holborn offices.

The Chair for the evening, Bryan Laxton, Partner at Cushman & Wakefield, welcomed our three eminent speakers: Mike Emmerich, Chief Executive New Economy (Manchester); Alison Nimmo, CEO The Crown Estate; and Steven Norris, twice candidate for the Mayor of London and Chairman Soho Estates.

The evening began with Steven Norris raising the critical issue that was to be discussed: Britain's locational imbalance in terms of economy and business. Steve spoke of London's huge potential in the global market with its ability to trade 24 hours, its transport system and its position as the 6th largest city economy in the world. With 22% of the UK's GDP generated in London, it serves as the economic heart of Britain, whilst retaining its position as the world's leading "green" city, with 40% of London remaining green space. With population growth rates as they are, London needs only to continue its growth at the same rate, in order to have a potential 10million people by 2030.

Mike Emmerich then followed, proposing the growing importance of other regional cities within the economic structure of Britain. He noted that whilst everyone agrees that London will and must grow, the issue to consider is how London could grow whilst retaining a balance for the entirety of Britain. His solution to this is that all regional cities must grow together, citing research from McKinsey that showed that Mid-tier cities must fight it out to experience growth. As an example he raised the relocation of artists to other European cities because they are being priced out of London, and the loss of talent as a consequence, asking the important question: How do we keep the talent within our own country? Mike's particular focus on Manchester showed that Manchester has a larger economy than Croatia, which presented the case for regional urban policy. However, with public spending at a higher rate than the tax generated by the economy, this gap must be closed first.

Finally, we heard from Alison Nimmo, who spoke on behalf of rural areas in Britain, demonstrating that size is important and also that whilst rural areas may not have the most monetary value, they are much larger than their urban counterparts. Alison pointed out that there are many more animals than people in Britain with 130 million poultry in the UK. With only 10% of the UK being built on, the rural areas produce the same revenue as all regional cities combined (excluding London). Alison presented the countless benefits of rural areas and their strength to provide for the whole country whilst quoting Albert Einstein to substantiate her point: 'If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have no more than four years to live.' She argued that we must look beyond the measure of GDP to see the true value of rural assets on wealth and prosperity.

A fantastic Q&A session followed with important questions around the important issues of infrastructure, and the market economy's role within the balance of Britain. Steven Norris concluded with a quote that left us with food for thought: 'London doesn't need more money; we just need more control over how to spend it'.

Speaker Presentations

Click on the link to download a pdf of the Speaker Presentations

For further information contact Kerry Johnston kjohnston@rref.reading.ac.uk

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