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LGA LEFT COLD BY BOHEMIANISM INDEX

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The Local Government Association has cast doubt on whether a 'creativity index' measuring the economic health of th...
The Local Government Association has cast doubt on whether a 'creativity index' measuring the economic health of the UK's cities will have any real impact on regeneration policy.

The UK's 40 largest cities were ranked according to the size of the city's gay community, its ethnic diversity and levels of technological innovation, which were used as indicators of the city's ability to attract talented young newcomers.

Of the three front-runners vying to become the European Capital of Culture 2008, only Birmingham cracked the index's top 10 creative cities at number 7, with Liverpool ranked at number 17 and the bookies' favourite, Newcastle/Gateshead, missing the top 20 by one place. The government is expected to announce the winner of that particular contest next week. Two other contenders, Bristol (5) and Cardiff (9) cracked the top 10.

The Boho index is a simplified version of a research tool developed by US economic regeneration expert Richard Florida.

He said: 'Diversity and innovation are the sorts of things that local governments (sic) too often ignore while they focus on the big things. The key is not to attract companies any more but to attract people.'

The index attracted some controversy two years ago in the United States because it links economic health with the size and profile of the gay community. Prof Florida argues areas with technology-based business growth have large gay communities.

But an LGA spokesman said that while the index adopted an 'interesting approach', it should be treated with caution.

'It is an extremely complex matter. What drives urban renewal are things like good public investment and a well educated workforce, but what comes first - the chicken or the egg?'

Manchester was identified as the city with the greatest creative potential in the UK based on its large student community, Canal Street gay district and high output of new technology patent applications.

Manchester City Council leader, Richard Leese [Lab], said creative appeal was not the only reason for the city's high ranking, which flowed from Manchester's ability 'to turn that creativity into practical ideas'.

'This study confirms what we've known in Manchester for some time - it's the reason why people study, live and work here, and want to invest here,' Mr Leese said.

London and Leicester tied for second, reflecting large ethnic minority populations and in London's case a thriving gay scene.

Barnsley MBC, whose area ranked 39th despite claims to have significant fashion, and design industries, went on the attack.

'The [original] US index involved nine different variables, the UK index has just three. While this may make good headlines, we have our doubts that any reliance can be placed on the methodology in those circumstances,' a spokesman said.

'Barnsley has one of the most successful Business Innovation Centres in the UK.'

A spokesman for bottom-placed Sunderland City Council said: 'We dispute the significance of this survey and its very shallow premise - that economic health can be judged by three factors alone.'

The Boho creativity index: winners and losers

1.Manchester

2.Leicester

London

4. Nottingham

5. Bristol

6. Brighton and Hove

7. Birmingham

8. Coventry

9. Cardiff

10. Edinburgh

31.Plymouth

32.Salford

33.Doncaster

34.Wakefield

35.Wigan

36.Wirral

37.Rotherham

38.Dudley

39.Barnsley

40.Sunderland

'Ten years ago we would possibly not have made it into the index at all. But we agree with Richard Florida's view of a successful city needing to be diverse, tolerant and open to creativity. We are building a creative city that is earning its right to be a European Capital of Culture.'

Neil Rami, Chief executive, Newcastle Gateshead Initiative

'Recently Barnsley has been establishing its future role in the world through a major strategy called Rethinking Barnsley, which includes major new cultural and creative developments.

It is sad that an index of this kind has been produced in a way which reinforces stereotypes and does nothing to recognise the direction of change and development.'

Barnsley MBC spokesman

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