Small to medium sized cities contribute to a third of the north’s economy

The twenty small to medium sized northern cities contribute to nearly a third of the north’s economy, according to a report from Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North.

The report argues for a more ‘sophisticated’ understanding of the urban system in the north that takes into account the role of smaller cities in driving prosperity.

IPPR North acknowledges the vital role that big cities must play, but highlights that small to medium sized cities in the north contribute a total of £82 billion to the economy.

The report states that smaller cities such as Warrington, Wakefield and Durham, have growth rates that match their core city neighbours, but face significant challenges due to a focus on larger cities.

IPPR North recommends that policy makers need to give greater recognition to the different roles played by different places within the Northern ecosystem, as well as a better understanding of the extent to which regional and local disparities are the natural consequences of urban agglomeration, as opposed to a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy generated by ingrained attitudes towards urban policymaking and public spending in the UK’.

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: “The latest academic research is asking some big questions about the big city story and it is about time policy-makers recognised this.

“In the same way small and medium businesses are now seen as vital to the British economy and the success of our big companies, we need to refocus policy on the North’s small and medium towns and cities, and not just the big cities – vital as they are.

“The evidence shows this is not ‘jam-spreading’ resources thinly but economically the right thing to do: Manchester needs a prosperous Wigan to succeed, and vice-versa.”