So its official (at least until the revisions anyway) the national economy has grown by 0 per cent this year. And the 0.3 per cent contraction announced on Friday for Quarter 4 of 2012 has reinvigorated the debate about whether the UK economy will experience an unprecedented triple dip recession. Cities Outlook 2013 published last week by the Centre for Cities shows how this national economic story of no growth played out very differently across our cities.
Cities Outlook 2013, the annual health check of UK cities shows that there have clearly been two phases to the recession to date. Some cities felt the impact keenly in the first year (08-09) but stabilised after that and are now recovering. Others were more moderately affected at the start but began to feel the effects in subsequent years (09-12). Both will be adversely affected if the national economy enters a third phase of recession, with significant implications for future economic growth.
Cities that struggled at the beginning of the recession – like Swindon, Sunderland and Burnley – have seen relatively strong economic growth since. For example, from 2008 to 2009, Swindon felt the effect of the cuts most strongly due to high numbers of job losses in both the private and public sectors. Yet between 2009 and 2012 the city showed signs of recovery, becoming one of our strongest performing cities. This recovery could now be in danger with the recent news that Honda plan to cut 800 jobs in the city citing weak demand from Europe.
Other cities, such as Swansea, Bradford and Mansfield saw the reverse. They were hit less badly at the start of the recession but since 2009 they have felt its effects more keenly than other cities. They have fallen 54, 52 and 51 places in our index respectively between 2009 to 2012, and their current struggles will be further exacerbated should the UK economy slide back into recession in the months ahead.
Centre for Cities consistently calls for more powers to be devolved to cities, so that they can make the difficult decisions about how to spend their budgets in the best interests of their residents and businesses. For some, it will be about delivering more housing, for others investing in skills or transport. Cities are the national economy. So now more than ever, cities need the powers to make the decisions that can drive local growth.