Last November, I suggested to the Core Cities Summit that they should ask for a new Urban Task Force - focused this time on economic growth and jobs, rather than design and physical regeneration.
The original Task Force was set up in 1998 by John Prescott, and chaired by Lord Richard Rogers. Its remit was "to establish a vision for our cities, founded on the principles of design excellence, social wellbeing and environmental responsibility". Quite a few of the old line-up were at the Phoenix Cities launch last week - Anne Power, Ricky Burdett and Rogers himself.
The Urban Task Force Report put cities on the policy map, early on in the Labour Government. Rogers and co made 105 recommendations, many (but not all) of which were implemented by Govt. Here's the Govt's response in 2000 - first, a £1bn package of fiscal measures in the Pre-Budget Report and then a full range of measures in the Urban White Paper.
Five years on, some of gloss was coming off the Govt's response. In his follow-up report in 2005, Rogers was starting to get frustrated at the lack of progress. The flagship stamp duty exemption for property transactions in deprived areas had to be shut down in 2005 - because it was benefiting Canary Wharf too much. A joint evaluation of the remaining fiscal measures (carried out by HMRC and CLG in 2006) wasn't very glowing either.
Ten years on, the urban renaissance has been hammered by its first recession. The gap between buoyant and struggling cities has widened. Despite massive investment, and notwithstanding some real achievements, urban regeneration programmes have yet to transform struggling urban areas. Meanwhile, the Govt's recovery story has so far been too national and sectoral, and not sufficiently spatial.
Some of the original principles of the Urban Task Force still stand, but we could now do with another close but different look at cities - with a remit this time on economic development and employment, and focused particularly on struggling urban areas that will find it tougher to recover.
There's scope here for a new Urban Task Force to build on the progress of Rogers, learn some lessons from the Prescott era, and inject a stronger focus on economic development. Anyone interested?