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Create urban development 'fund of funds' Chancellor urged

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The government should establish a national fund to help all cities boost urban development a thinktank has urged.

Centre for Cities research found that the existing ‘urban development funds’ were only investing in just under half of all UK cities. The largest cities- Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham and Newcastle- did not have access to any fund at all.

“This means that development in these places is potentially being held back,” the report states. A national urban development fund would ensure all cities could access and benefit investment for projects which would help “unlock local jobs and growth”, it adds.

There are currently nine UDF across the UK, all underpinned by investment from the European Regional Development Fund’s ‘JESSICA’ scheme. The rollout and impact of UDFs are being hampered, according to the Centre for Cities report, by inflexibilities within the UK’s regulatory framework and a lack of ‘investment-ready’ projects.

A ‘national urban development fund’ would act as a ‘fund of funds’, overseeing sub-national UDFs in individual or groups of cities. “Such a set up would allow more cities to access UDF finance to support the growth of their economies,” the report adds.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities said a national urban development fund would give the chancellor an “innovative way to balance the books” before the spending review in the summer.

“This national fund would also help to create a stronger pipeline of development projects over the long term, leaving cities better equipped to attract further investment in order to respond to the needs of residents and businesses,” she added.

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