The North’s small and medium-sized cities (SMCs) contribute more than Wales and Northern Ireland combined to the UK economy every year - but they need to be better connected to the bigger cities, report says.
The thinktank IPPR North has published a new report into northern SMCs which found they contribute £82bn a year to the economy and represent one third of the northern economy.
The report, entitled City systems: the role of smaller towns and cities in growing the Northern Powerhouse, also revealed growth rates in the 20 SMCs with populations over 75,000 match levels seen in major cities.
IPPR does, however, argue that many SMCs do face significant challenges from not being better connected to bigger cities, and urges Whitehall to review the ‘London-centric’ system of transport funding which favours major cities.
The report also recommends the Government treat SMCs in a manner similar to how it treats small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with bespoke support to foster local strengths.
Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: ‘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.’
A report last month warned the Northern Powerhouse will only succeed if more resources are spent on underperforming cities in the region.