City Assets Summary 2018

Paul Howlett

Head of Communications and Marketing

A new drive to fire up economic development in England’s city regions is beginning to emerge as elected mayors bring together public and private stakeholders to achieve progress.

Using their democratic convening power and leadership skills, elected Mayors are playing a key role in helping regional economies address the productivity gap between the regions and London and the South East.

Their willingness to break down organisational barriers in the name of progress was a constant theme at a series of City Assets Round Tables organised by Turner & Townsend and supported by Bevan Brittan.

Building on research carried out by think tank Centre for Cities, the City Assets Round Tables took places in devolved regions and key provincial cities –Greater Manchester, Tees Valley, the West Midlands, Bristol, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, and Stoke –and in London.

Chaired by Lord Kerslake, the former head of the UK Home Civil Service and an ex-City Council CEO, the Round Tables examined how city regions could use publicly-owned land and buildings to develop coherent visions for long-term regeneration, the aim being to raise economic output and create more opportunities for citizens.

Lord Kerslake said: “The disparities in the UK’s economic geography mean there is an urgent need to drive progress at scale. At a time of financial constraint, the question is how?

These City Assets Round Tables have brought some of the solutions into sharp relief – using the convening power of political leaders to create the capacity to deliver by driving public-private collaboration.

He added: “At a time of political uncertainty and technological change, a collaborative approach from civic institutions, commercial businesses and city-region stakeholders is fundamental to progress. The solutions to our urgent challenges lies in powerful leadership driving coherent visions under a common banner, not in organisational silos.”

The City Assets Round Tables identified a number of challenges city regions must overcome in their push for progress:

  • Creating a comprehensive picture of publicproperty assets and the role they can play in delivering an economic vision.
  • Developing a commercial mindset whichunderstands how those assets fit into themarket and where the risks lie.
  • Investing in dedicated resources which willenable collaborations to succeed.
  • Building partnerships based on shared goalsand strong personal relationships.

Persuading different parts of the public sector to participate in collaboration was identified as a potentially significant hurdle to progress as property may not be a frontline policy priority for Government departments or bodies like the NHS – despite the size of their estates.

Bill McElroy, who led Turner & Townsend’s involvement in the City Assets Round Tables, said: “We know that our city regions possess both untapped regeneration potential and huge ambition to exploit it. Their challenge is identifying the technical expertise and practical resources they need to deliver.

“Whilst resource constraints have unquestionably impacted on public sector capacity, we have seen encouraging evidence of a willingness to explore innovative new models where public and private stakeholders pursue shared objectives.

We have seen a number of city regions come to the fore through their elected mayors and combined authorities. They, in particular, are displaying great clarity of vision and a willingness to seize the moment and drive progress.

He concluded: “Regeneration at scale is complex and making sure city region projects are deliverable goes far beyond having a plan in place. It needs committed, experienced teams who know how to make collaboration work in the name of a shared vision. Our city regions must continue to priorities that at a time of transformational change.”

Read the full City Assets 2018 summary report