A decade of urban regeneration leaves big inequalities in cities

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The Independent Online

The benefits of a decade of urban regeneration in Brit-ain's cities are being shared unequally, according to new research by the Centre for Cities. The centre also concludes that the UK's urban renaissance is "unfinished business" and that while half of the UK's most improved cities, in terms of employment growth, are in the north, the "north-south divide" remains.

The centre's Cities Outlook 2008 report reveals that, of the top 10 improving cities or towns on jobs growth, half are northern, including Derby, Doncaster and Sunderland in fourth, sixth and seventh places respectively. However, for four of these five areas, employment rates are still considerably below the national average. Sunderland ranks almost bottom, with 32 per cent of the city's working age population out of work, compared with 26 per cent nationally. The top three cities or towns for employment growth over the past decade are Milton Keynes, Portsmouth and Brighton.

The report highlights the inequalities within, as well as between, British cities. Manchester, Birmingham and London, which have seen much investment and sometimes transformation, each appear in the report's ranking of the ten most unequal urban areas in terms of wealth and deprivation. Across city regions, the disparities can be stark. In Greater Manchester, 35 per cent of the working age population of Manchester itself are out of work compared with 20 per cent in Stockport. In greater Birmingham, the comparable figures are 37 per cent unemployed in central Birmingham and 21 per cent in neighbouring Solihull. Greater London comprises some of the richest and poorest districts in Europe.

The Centre for Cities found that less than a mile from regenerated areas such as Manchester's new Piccadilly station and London's Canary Wharf, "entrenched pockets of work-lessness" and underperforming housing markets remain. The centre is calling for cities to improve skills of workless residents in surrounding areas and invest in transport networks linking people to jobs.

British cities have benefited from a decade of strong growth and high public spending. But they are now facing a number of headwinds slower growth, tighter public spending, weaker consumer demand, and an uncertain housing market. They are also under increasing pressure to provide more jobs, more homes and better transport.

Generally, large towns such as Reading and Milton Keynes are performing better than the larger conurbations. Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool and Belfast all registered declines in their population since the 1990s: Greater London, exceptionally, gained 600,000 new residents.

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