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Recession plea for small cities

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The government has been warned against neglecting England’s smaller urban areas as it bids to place cities at the centre of the fight against the recession.

Neil Darwin, the newly installed director of Regional Cities East, the pressure group for urban authorities in the east of England, urged the Department for Communities & Local Government to throw its weight behind equivalent models to multi-area agreements (MAAs) for smaller cities.

“The issue for us is the same as for cities up and down the country - how to get infrastructure in place,” he said.

“Some areas aren’t a natural fit for MAAs, which work much better for city regions.”

Instead, the government should endorse the use of lists of priority infrastructure projects agreed at the sub-regional level, known as integrated development programmes.

Mr Darwin said groups of councils across the region had come together to agree investment priorities but needed the government’s help to get bodies such as the regional development agency, Homes & Communities Agency, Highways Agency and Environment Agency to engage with them.

“There are around 55 smaller cities in the UK with populations between 100,000 and 150,000,” he added. “They account for just under 30% of jobs and that is too big to ignore.”

The government is set to unveil at least two new statutory city regions with devolved powers
in next week’s Budget.

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