The newly created City Growth Commission, led by ex-Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill, is due to hold the first of three independent inquiries into the growth challenge facing UK regional cities today in Manchester Town Hall.
Manchester was chosen for the initial event as it is already demonstrating strong progress in pushing ahead for greater autonomy and devolution; it was the UK's first city to gain a combined authority.
Today's event will take place in the Ante Chamber in Manchester Town Hall between 9.30am and 1.30pm. It will cover, through an open discussion, three broad questions:
1. What are the main factors currently limiting cities' growth, and what are the most important economic policy levers they need to maximise their potential?
2. What political levers or governance structures are needed?
3. How might public service reform, for instance of education and employment services, support and drive local economic growth?
Members of the public and representatives of the press are invited to attend the discussion, which will be recorded and will contribute towards the evidence base of a detailed report by the commission, due for publication later this year.
The final report will take into account an evaluation of these events and convey findings from a dedicated research programme which is to be undertaken throughout 2014.
The Commission is hosted by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce aims to produce tangible recommendations on how Government can grant more autonomy to UK cities, in support of the country's social and economic development.
Confirmed attendees and organisations on the Manchester panel include:
- Cllr Sir Richard Leese, leader, Manchester City Council
- Eammon Boylan, chief executive, Stockport Council
- Prof Rod Coombs, deputy president and vice-chancellor, University of Manchester
- Michael Oglesby, chairman of Bruntwood
- Prof Alan Harding, Michael Heseltine Institute, University of Liverpool
- Ken Lee, human resources director, BBC North
- Lorna Fitzsimons, the Alliance Project and former MP for Rochdale
- Iain Taylor, partnerships director, Peel Group
Ben Lucas, chairman of public services for RSA, said: "This is the first City Growth Commission evidence hearing and we're delighted to be in Manchester to learn from and highlight the city's experience in driving productivity, economic growth and social value by coordinating across boroughs.
"City regions can provide strategic, accountable local leadership to make the best of their economic assets – helping to attract investment, create jobs and improve living standards.
"At a time of austerity and increasing demand on public services, cities can also catalyse reform, improving outcomes, reducing cost and enhancing financial sustainability over the long term."
Mike Emmerich, advising the commission in his capacity as chief executive for New Economy, said: "Cities are the driving force of the international marketplace but, to truly unleash their potential here in the UK, there is much more that should be done to devolve central fiscal and economic policy.
"This event will be an opportunity for to talk frankly and openly about how do that; how we enable cities like Manchester to fulfil their potential, so that they can truly complement the phenomenal growth of London, and boost the prosperity of the country as a whole.
"For the UK to have economically strong, financially self-sustaining cities, there is a need for a real change in how Government coordinates policy, programmes and projects."
The other two events will be held at Bristol and Newcastle with the times and dates to be confirmed.
The commission is chaired by Jim O' Neill, retiring chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset. Its members are:
- Ben Lucas, principal partner, RSA 2020 Public Services
- Bridget Roswell, chairman Volterra Economics, former chief economist to Greater London Authority
- Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Programme
- Diane Coyle, chief executive of Enlightenment Economics and vice-chairman of the BBC Trust
- Greg Clark, chairman, OECD Forum on Local Development Agencies and investment strategies and global fellow, Metropolitan Programme at the Brookings Institution
- John Van Reenen, professor of economics at the London School of Economics and director of the Centre of Economic Performance
- Peter Vernon, chief executive of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland and previously partner at IBM Business Consulting Services and PwC
- Prof Tony Travers, director of British Government at LSE London, professor in the LSE's government department and chairman of the London Finance Commission
- Rachel Lomax, independent non-executive director at HSBC and former deputy governor, monetary stability, at the Bank of England and a member of the BoE's Monetary Policy Committee
- Rohan Silva, entrepreneur in residence at Index Ventures and previously senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister
- Mike Emmerich, chief executive of New Economy Manchester, and Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, are also advising the commission