Sustainable Cities Need Committed Leadership

When city leaders embrace innovation and when they collaborate, significant long term benefits can be achieved. Across the globe, forward-looking city leaders are embracing change and reaching beyond city hall to drive sustainable economic growth and enhanced quality of life for their citizens.

In the UK the break-up of old-style regional government and the abandonment of regional development agencies has led to a void in mid-scale governance that is being filled by cities.  Aside from London, the UK doesn’t have too many big cities, perhaps with the exception of Birmingham. But whilst those cities might not be big in numbers, they’re certainly stepping up to the plate in building relationships with central government, demanding devolution in return for delivery.

Over the last two years the 8 Core Cities in England (www.corecities.com) have led the development of ‘City Deals’ and there are many excellent writers on that topic – in particular I would point you towards http://charleslandry.com/ and http://davidmarlow.regen.net/

Now, other cities have joined the City Deals process – see https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/giving-more-power-back-to-cities-through-city-deals for more information.

It is clear that cities have a key role to play. They are being given the opportunity to set out how they could deliver better, faster and more sustainably. These factors are at the heart of city deals.

But those cities are also part of a changing city region geography, based on economic geography as opposed to traditional regions and that is scaling up both the challenge and the opportunity.

Cities are now being tasked with developing Growth Plans – setting out lnger term strategies and priorities for sector growth, employment, skills with a strong private sector role and an invitation for multi-stakeholder buy-in. As an example, see http://www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/growth-strategy/

But herein lies the danger. The pace at which growth plans and investment plans are being produced is in danger of focusing on the traditional economic approaches and failing to address emerging agenda.

Collectively, and individually, cities in the UK are beginning to understand the ‘Smart City’ concept. It’s been propogated by initiatives such as the Technology Strategy Board’s ‘Future Cities Programme’ and forward thinking (but entirely commercially focused) protagonists such as IBM. It is crucial that in our growth plans, individually, and collectively, the ‘smart city’ concept is embraced and integrated. It will prove essential if we are to achieve the resource efficiency needed to ensure citizens continue to enjoy a good quality of life. It will prove vital if the cities in the UK seek to attract visitors, investors, ambassadors.

The leaders within our cities are key to ensuring this ambition is spelt out. Without endorsing any one business the film produced by IBM here certainly makes the case for the use of data to inform decisions and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

When city leaders embrace innovation and when they collaborate, significant long term benefits can be achieved. Across the globe, forward-looking city leaders are embracing change and reaching beyond city hall to drive sustainable economic growth and enhanced quality of life for their citizens.

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