City leaders present HS2 declaration to Prime Minister

This morning, leaders from the UK’s ten largest cities outside of London presented a signed declaration to the Prime Minister calling for the fast delivery of High Speed 2 (HS2) and a commitment to bring about the creation of a full high speed network.

The declaration [1] comes on the day that the ten leaders of the Core Cities (Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield) plus the regional capitals of Edinburgh and Glasgow, are holding a national Summit in London to discuss how greater devolution to the UK’s cities can benefit the UK economy by increasing GDP, jobs and tax revenues.

The UK’s cities believe that a national high-speed rail network has the potential to create “high speed cities” and is the only option to reshape and rebuild the national economy.

The declaration presented to the Prime Minister this morning said:-

• The Government must make the most of the untapped economic potential of the UK’s biggest cities and that without this commitment, national growth will be constrained for years to come.

• The whole of Parliament must unite and press on with the Hybrid Bill for Phase 1 and deliver with all speed plans for Phase 2.

• That the cities want to explore with Government the costs and benefits of expanding a network that extends High Speed 2 to all of the great cities of our country.

• Upgrades to the UK’s rail network are no longer enough. The only solution is a major injection of rail capacity and long-term infrastructure investment to secure the economic future the UK needs.

• That the cities look forward to working with successive Governments to ensure that the maximum economic benefit is extracted from this investment.

The Core Cities Summit today brought together 150 national and international figures to discuss and influence the debate on devolution and the future of our cities. Following the announcement of an unprecedented package of financial powers for Wales earlier this week, the Core Cities has today released a ‘Prospectus for Growth’ [2] outlining their own case for greater devolution to cities in England to drive growth, and also to reform the public sector.

The Prospectus predicts that by 2030 – before HS2 is completed – the Core Cities urban areas could put 1.16 million more jobs and £222 billion into the UK economy. That is like adding the entire economy of Denmark to the UK or almost £14,000 for every person living in a Core City urban area.

The Core Cites two key objectives set out in the prospectus are to outperform the national economy (by 2028) and to become financially independent of Government. At present, in England, cities only directly control about 5% of all the taxes raised from local people and businesses, with 95% going straight to the Government. The prospectus presents a nine point plan for achieving this vision.

The Core Cities fully support further devolution to Wales, but believe given similar powers, they could achieve great results, not just for their cities, but for the entire UK economy.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council and Chair of the Core Cities Group, said: “Today, half the planet lives in a city and by 2050 it will be 70%.  Across the world it is cities that drive national economies.  England’s great cities once led the world, and gave it the industrial revolution, but the UK is now one of the most centralised states in the world, where the lack of freedom is holding back our cities from doing more to create growth and jobs.  Our aim is for all the Core Cities to outperform the national economy, and to become financially self-sustaining before the completion of High Speed Two.

“Today we are launching a Prospectus which contains new ideas for driving growth and jobs, and also for reforming the public sector, improving people’s lives, and making the services that underpin the well-being of a city sustainable for the long term.  Through these plans we believe that our great English cities can drive a new economic revolution, putting us at the front of the global race.  But achieving it means cities, their civic and business leaders, need the tools to deliver.”

Cllr Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council and Core Cities cabinet member for transport, said: “High Speed 2 is an essential step toward a 21st Century high-speed rail network covering the whole of the UK.  We see no credible alternative to achieving our wider economic vision. The UK lags behind the competition in its infrastructure. The existing rail network no longer has the capacity to support modern levels of demand for rail travel and it will be full to the brim within the next decade.

“Upgrades will not do, and will instead cause years of delays and economic damage not just for cities, but for the UK as a whole. Understanding the benefits this will bring is of course essential, but we believe the case has been made for this investment, which is roughly the same annual sum as that spent on Crossrail in London, and will connect all the UK’s cities as a single economic powerhouse.”

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