Reuters

Why it's a good thing that British mayors are getting more control over their economies and infrastructure.

The United Kingdom yesterday announced a major initiative to give some of its larger cities more power over their economic destinies. As the The Independent reports, six of England’s largest cities — Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Sheffield — have been granted greater autonomy over their economies and infrastructure (extra powers for Liverpool and Greater Manchester were agreed to earlier).

It seems the notion that cities are increasingly the key economic organizing units of the world is finally making its way into the circles of national power.  

Discussing the shift in policy with reporters, U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg noted that cities "are the economic powerhouses of England - so it makes sense that the cities decide for themselves how to boost their local economies."

Brookings economist Alice Rivlin has long argued that policies geared toward spurring innovation, productivity and economic development are more effective at the local than national level. Mayors and city leaders are more in touch with their local economies, and often more pragmatic and less ideological than their national peers.

"Until recently, 'competitiveness' was outside a mayor’s domain because the factors defining it were decided at the national level,” New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote recently in the Financial Times. "But today, with more than half the world’s population living in cities – generating about 80 per cent of global output – and businesses formulating growth strategies around urban markets, cities cannot afford to cede their futures to national governments."

In his forthcoming book, If Mayors Ruled the World, political scientist Benjamin Barber argues that cities and mayors must be a key element of global leadership and global governance in the 21st century. Gradually, it may be starting to happen.

Top image: A young passenger looks at the Liverpool sky line as the Mersey Ferry comes into dock at Pier Head. (Ian Hodgson/Reuters)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A maglev train on a test track outside Tokyo. A scheme to build a line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., has been in the works for years.
    Transportation

    The Battle of the Supertrains

    Promoters are touting two different multi-billion-dollar high-speed projects between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Is it a fantasy, or a game changer?

  2. Equity

    Is the Rental Housing Explosion Over?

    For the first time since 2005, growth in new rental housing slowed down. Are there really enough apartments to meet demand?

  3. Downtown Roanoke is pictured.
    Life

    The Small Appalachian City That’s Thriving

    Roanoke, Virginia, has become what many cities of its size, geography, and history want to be. It started by bringing housing to a deserted downtown.

  4. Equity

    The Hidden Rooms Within New York's Public Housing

    A new study from New York’s Independent Budget Office reveals that nearly a third of public housing units are under-occupied, often by older residents living alone. But can the city find a humane fix?

  5. A mural at a restaurant in the Mexican Town district of Detroit
    Life

    How Place Shapes Our Politics

    Political scientist and author Ryan Enos explains how geography can sharpen political conflicts.