The Metropolitan Struggle: Inter-Urban Competition
Most of us know a thing or two when it comes to the wide-scale economy. Inflation rates, unemployment figures, GDP’s likelihood to rise or fall and the like – but when was the last time you looked at your own City and how it was doing in the micro-continental battle that is inter-urban competition?
The metropolitan struggle is just a fitting name I’ve given to a non-too-complicated concept. You see, take the UK – we have a balance of payments, our exports minus our imports, and naturally that contributes toward our macro-economic performance. Our public consume, this also contributes toward our performance, think about it:
Consume more > Business’ have higher profit > pay more tax > delegate bonus packages > have to hire more people to satisfy supply > Govt spends less on benefits > further consumption and tax revenue etc. etc. – You could do that for days!
But the simple fact remains – the overwhelming majority understand that on a macro-economic, inter-national scale. What we often fail to realise is the exact same thing occurs on a City to City, town to town, village to village basis.
But why am I drawing this to your attention? Why should you care about this? – The implications, as always!
This is the core of economic performance, the over-looked foundations of a prosperous entity and welfare state in which we can lead sustainable, secure, low-disparity lives – the whole idea behind Adam Smith’s modern economisation.
I am going to use my hometown as an example…welcome to Bradford.
Bradford is in the 4th largest district in the UK. Home to 1,499,465 people making the competition is fierce but rewarding. It is the general consensus that, thus far, no one has really been able to tap the potential of Bradford –why?
Bradford is a City of a wonderful range of diverse cultures, social groups, heritage, race and religion. It has a large percentage of Scandinavian inhabitant, a prospering Islamic community, a bulging Sikh proportion and the White British it provides home to.
If we were talking simple density, even basic demographic consultation, Bradford should do as well as its neighbouring giant – Leeds. But it doesn’t. Which makes me ask – why?
Cause and Alleviation
If you go and speak to the locals of Leeds and Bradford, some of the more senior locals, they will all tell you that 30 years ago, Bradford and Leeds were pretty much on a par. The only thing Leeds had that Bradford didn’t was a significantly larger train station – capable of harbouring a good 30 trains simultaneously, as opposed to Bradford’s – which can harbour 5-6 at any one time.
But why is this important? Well, think about it – the current account on the balance of payments – imports/exports – the route to China, Brazil, and India’s fantastic growth golden years. Imagine, from Leeds’ perspective, people coming in from other Cities are exports. They are not a part of your economic potential, they are injections, and they boost the maximum potential of your economic performance by unlocking foreign cash flows inaccessible to us until now.
They come from, say, Huddersfield. They take Huddersfieldian money and consume Leeds’ goods. So, the big train station starting to look important? No? How can these ‘exports’ consume Leeds’ goods without a convenient, regular, efficient method of transport?
Just as a Country with no airports or harbours would be isolated from the wealth of the global trading market, a City with insufficient Bus Routes, Train Stations, Tram Lines, and poor Roads etc. will suffer consequently. Especially when their neighbour’s transport infrastructure is above expectations and so they City is now just leaking imports (people leaving for a day out to neighbouring cities and spending money there) but gaining no exports (neighbouring City’s inhabitants travelling here and spending).
It really is an interesting one – could it be that simple? Is that now why Bradford’s town centre is a mockable, insignificant, unpopulated, insufficiently invested plot of land overlooked by those with needs and wants for the neighbouring, developed, vibrant, sophisticated streets of Leeds? I know it is for me, I never travel to Bradford town centre, regardless of what I want, unless it is simply to walk through to get the train – to Leeds. I am part of the problem. The significance of a train station, who’d have thought it?
So, what can we do about it? We’re starting to see the significance now, right?
Well, thankfully, Bradford made a good move – almost. You may have heard of/seen the £24.4m water-based attraction newly opened last summer in Centrinary Square.
The Guardian innovatively called it ‘the puddle in the park’ – British journalism at its finest, there. Many of the public slammed its inception, the money should be spent on something better, and it will simply be a cosmetic solution, not functional of a prospering economy.
I was sceptical, I won’t lie but, on my occasional walks through Bradford to get the Leeds train, I noticed something potentially vital for Bradford’s touted resurgence.
People. No flying dragons, no pot of gold, no quad-rainbow. Just, normal, ordinary people. Floating around like – guess what? – Exports and imports. The second any shred of decent weather emerged from Yorkshire’s iron-curtained abyss people gathered there like affluent moths to an all too willing-to-sell flame.
But, it wasn’t that simple. They’d done well, they just hadn’t cracked that all too illusive code. These people are exactly what Bradford needs and wants, but it was that age-old argument of a lack of infrastructure. The people were there, Bradford had won the inter-urban metropolitan struggle on that day, there was just nowhere to capitalise on their apparent glee-fuelled affluent tendencies.
There’s a Nando’s, a Lloyd’s, a Starbucks and the smallest, weathered shop you will ever see. Are there any designer brands? No. A classy bar though, to enjoy the weather with an ice cold one? No. A place to sit down with the family and have a nice meal? No. An ice cream bar? Come on? At an attraction based on weather, water and outdoor activity, with hundreds of KIDS? Simply, sadly, incredibly, no.
This feature is supposed to bring in £80m a year and I just find myself asking how? If they had 25% of the shopping features or night life that’s been available in Leeds for decades, which people travel from up and down the Country to come to, Bradford could obliterate that target. For now, though, Bradford simply doesn’t have the infrastructure, nor the investment to put up a fight in an already one side inter-urban dog fight. The Metropolitan Struggle, it seems, is beyond Bradford and that doesn’t look likely to change within the next decade, frankly.