RSA City Growth Commission

08:22 Wednesday 22nd October 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: The Scottish referendum might seem like a long way away now, but according to a new report, Cambridge could be one of the big beneficiaries of the legacy of that referendum. The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce has looked at how increased devolution of powers would benefit the UK’s fifteen largest cities, and that includes Cambridge. According to their math, the economies of these cities would benefit by a whopping £79 billion.  Let’s speak to Ben Lucas who is one of the commissioners behind the report. So Ben tell us more what you looked into. What did you find out in this report?

BEN LUCAS: Well, what we were looking at is the potential of cities. And our conclusion is that certainly internationally it is cities now that are the driving forces of global growth, because they are the concentrations of innovation, productivity and creativity that will be the basis of our future economy. What we have in Britain is one of the most centralised systems anywhere in the developed world. And we think that’s holding back the economic potential of our cities. So what we propose is a series of recommendations that would empower our cities to achieve much greater levels of growth, and that in turn would therefore boost the overall growth rate of the UK economy.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So more powers to cities.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Which powers?

BEN LUCAS: Well, we argue that that will .. it will differ from city to city. So we don’t want there to be just one top down solution to this. It’s partly what cities themselves feel they need. The range of powers are in the areas of powers to do with skills and the local labour markets, so the ability to be able to run their own skill strategies and invest in skills at a local level, transport powers, housing and planning powers, and fiscal powers, so that places can be more economically sustainable and more able to benefit from increase to their business growth via control of business rates.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So fiscal powers, you mean taxes. Do you just mean business taxes?
BEN LUCAS: Well business rates is one of the things we look at. We’ve also looked at .. particularly in London there’s been a lot of work around a wider range of property taxes. And there are other types of taxes, smaller taxes, tourism taxes and so on that can be important in different places, and which around the world are often an important part of the revenue base for local government.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Ben, thank you for joining me. That was Ben Lucas, who is one of the commissioners behind this report by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.