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'London vs. the Rest' Is the Wrong Approach

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sunshine
sunshine  
1/31/2014 9:02:42 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: A Balanced Recovery?
I'm with Timothy Dixon and @stillalive on this.  

This isn't really about London and other cities; it's about the rest of the country versus south-east England which is all becoming part of Greater London.  40 years ago a house in zone 1 (i.e. near the centre) could be bought for about 5-6 times a graduate's salary now the same house would be over 30 times the annual salary.  People are now travelling as much as 4 hours a day in order to work in London.  From as far away as Norwich in the north and Hastings in the south, simply because that's where the jobs are but they can't afford to live the lifestyle they want near to where they work. The average commute time in London is now 90 minutes a day, or a working day per week.

Yes London is a great economic success but is it really the best model for happiness and quality of life?  Do we really want the centres of our cities to be 'occupied' by people who don't live there but simply use property as a 'bank'. Is this the measure of success?

As Bob Dylan said 'There's no success like failure and failure's no success at all'

 

Simon Hersom
Simon Hersom  
1/30/2014 2:17:29 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Oh, that old refrain
Singapore is lovely. Everything works and the city is safe and clean - the only place in Asia where food bought from street stalls is guaranteed safe to eat. But it's boring especially for kids whose parents are there because it's safe and provides a good education. My colleagues were passionate about the place but the "five things to do over a weekend" was a running joke. It's not great for political dissent either. I'm not sure how you describe a popular and successful political system that is dramatically less corrupt that most others but has strong totalitarian tendencies. It isn't democratic but it does work.

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/30/2014 1:48:44 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Oh, that old refrain
Very interesting, @Simon! I'm intrigued by your take on Singapore. To outsiders like me, it seems the soul of democracy and friendliness.

Seems I've heard that Hong Kong and Singapore are getting to be expensive and don't offer the variety of activities other cities might. Is that what you meant by finding things to do on weekends?

Simon Hersom
Simon Hersom  
1/30/2014 1:31:38 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Oh, that old refrain
People, particularly the young mobile, will go where the excitement is. If London didn't exist you'd need to invent it to stop all the talent heading off somewhere else. In the sixties we had the "brain drain" of people to the US But you have to have a balance of attractions for it to work as well as London does now. Jobs, obviously but also almost unlimited leisure and cultural opportunities in a democracy with a reasonable legal system well connected to the rest of the world. Pity about the weather. Abu Dhabi, Doha and many, many other places don't fit that description. Hong Kong still does, but be careful with whom you disagree in Singapore (and find me 5 things to do on a weekend stopover)

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/30/2014 11:35:10 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Oh, that old refrain
A power list there, Terry. Though Washington DC and Vatican City I'm not so sure about, since they derive their strengths from specific organizations, and since there are well-documented financial sinkholes in each. Then again, with the new "Power Pope," perhaps Vatican City will gain more traction. Perhaps an unspiritual way to view it, but I mean no disrespect. It's clear that the new head of the RC Church is gaining popularity -- and that can translate to more visits to the city state, more support for its programs, etc.

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
1/30/2014 11:27:46 AM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Oh, that old refrain
Yes, all good examples, Mary. Or Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain, Monaco, Vatican City, and the District of Columbia. Not sure that this exactly constitutes a real trend since the origin, economic engine(s), and history of each is unique and not necessarily replicable.

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/30/2014 11:10:42 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Oh, that old refrain
Sad but true, Terry, re: weaning off federal $. One thing: The rise of city/states is already evident in Hong Kong and Singapore, no?

 

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
1/30/2014 11:01:18 AM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Oh, that old refrain
It's a good question, Mary... actually several good questions. Given the economic heft of urban centers (and migration to big cities of the last 20+ years), the resurrection of the city-state doesn't seem so far-fetched. At least in the US, though, cities will have a hard time weaning themselves from the money they get from federal sources (military, transportation, agriculture, to name but a few).

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/30/2014 10:45:03 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Oh, that old refrain
Just wanted to add to your comment on Quebec, @Terry: That province may have learned a lesson, but just barely. It came perilously close (I think the referendum was 51 to 49%) to disrupting Canadian unity.

There are still plenty of people in Quebec who think they should live in their own country.

It kind of makes me wonder, though: Eventually, the boundaries of some cities and nations are bound to shift. (Could the New England states, for instance, move into Canada, while Quebec goes it alone? Could London break away into its own fiefdom?) Just some vague musings on what is perhaps inevitable in some instances?

Timothy Dixon
Timothy Dixon  
1/28/2014 1:57:43 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: A Balanced Recovery?
Hi Rich

Well, here's where it gets political! The report can be interpreted in different ways. Some may say the findings represent a failure of Coalition policies. Inequalities are in danger of increasing between London/SE and the rest of the UK--this is not surprising given the austerity cuts which have hit many northern cities. A growing London is good but if 'competition' -led policies continue to fail, and a fragmented landscape of LEPs cannot join up, many fear the next round of spending cuts will fuel further polarisation (as plans to 'shrink the state' take root). City Deals and a low carbon economy could offer some positives here but only if leadership at city level enables those partnerships to work. In my view the Coalition has failed to understand how a green economy with capital investment can nurture growth in cities that need it--regional growth policies and an agenda that devolves power to cities and enables them to get creative with funding streams can help, but much more needs to be done at all levels to address this. 

 

So it's not a questionof London v the rest of the country. With the right policy mix in place it doesn't have to be this way. But in my view we can't rely on trickle down benefits!

Tim

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