Connecting for Prosperity: How cities are critical for levelling-up

Published: May 2022

The question of “Levelling-Up” is often framed as an issue of either North versus South or prosperous areas versus those that have been left behind. This report for London HQ explores how it is also important to focus on what happens within our largest cities. This both because they contain people and areas that need levelling-up and because they provide the scale, jobs, connects and services that will allow the county to make a success of levelling-up.

The report highlights the real risk that levelling up takes the form of levelling down our most successful cities and that long-term, irreversible harm will be done to the economy. We looked to see what might happen to the contribution made by England’s largest cities under a range of scenarios:

  • If cities followed the trend of their economic growth before Covid they can be expected to contribute an extra £42 billion a year by 2030 (compared to a scenario where they grow at the same rate as the national average).
  • Cities would contribute an extra £21 billion a year further (to make a total of £63 billion) if all cities were equipped to grow at the same rate as London. This is the ambition policymakers should be aiming towards to make the most of cities’ potential.
  • If the growth of cities slows so that their economies only expand at the same rate as areas outside of the largest cities, there could be up to £21 billion in lost output a year by 2030.

To ensure the continued success of cities and the contribution they make to the rest of the country, the government must commit to their long term future.