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Three top columnists on the future of cities

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LGC’s essential daily briefing

There is something about cities. Their names are often used as bywords for cultural sophistication, industrial innovation, and economic growth. Their political systems often work differently to those outside their limits and the collective identities are often clearly defined and recognisable to outsiders.

LGC’s top columnists periodically focus on cities; their dominance in the devolution debate, the way they may develop as devolution unfolds, and what threats they must overcome to continue their success.

On Friday, LGC was pleased to publish an article on cities from New York academic Benjamin Barber, professor emeritus of political science, Rutgers University. Prof Barber’s article argued that nation states can no longer be sovereign in the “borderless interdependence of the 21st century”. National leadership, he argues, has failed to prevent the rise of popular, reactionary nationalism, which he argues has propelled Donald Trump to the White House and underpinned Brexit. Prof Barber’s point is that when nation states are failing to tackle global problems like climate change, terrorism, and the refugee crisis, strong cities will co-operate with each other to do so, and emerge as the “de facto sovereigns of the century”.

If Prof Barber’s prediction is to come true, then the new heads of these powerful cities will need to be prepared. Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones wrote for LGC on the lessons the new crop of metro-mayors, to be elected this May, can learn from London’s mayor Sadiq Khan and his predecessors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. Ms Jones urges the new mayors to set out clear visions for their achievements and work well with national and local government.

To maintain their dominance, cities will need to keep on performing, as Lewisham LBC’s chief executive Barry Quirk wrote for LGC last year. In his tips for city success, Mr Quirk says cities must maintain their growth by creating the right conditions for businesses to naturally develop; and sustain their connectivity to other places, their community cohesion, and the fairness of their contract between the city government and the people.

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