BBC reporter and economist Evan Davis came to the university as part of the SEE Talks; a student run organisation to bring speakers to the university. BSci Maths and Finance student Alex Crosby was there…
SEE Talks are a series of talks about macroeconomic issues and their wider influence in the world. As part of this, BBC presenter and Economist Evan Davis came to the University of Exeter to discuss “Why is London so dominant in the UK?”
It seems London’s size is unique in the UK and growing every year; its size draws in new workers, increasing the size and bringing in more workers. This cycle has encouraged a vast amount of investment into London, both domestic and foreign, bringing about new infrastructures and projects within the city. Yet some worry that whilst London is thriving other areas of the UK are being neglected and that in fact we should halt investment in London and use it in other parts of the country. But is this efficient?
Hours worked in London are 29 per cent higher than the UK average and their productivity is the highest out of all UK cities. This highlights the benefits that London, as a glomeration, has on the UK’s economy. Glomerations are the idea that taking 15 per cent of the population and squeezing it into a small area makes them more productive. It explores the benefits gained from condensing people together such as information overspill from neighbours, collaboration and competition, increasing overall output. The idea that neighbours help is widely held, and so we see many businesses locating themselves next to companies they believe will help their productivity. This can be seen in Silicon Valley, Canary Warf and Salford Quays, to name a few.
This ignites the idea that we should focus on a second city in the UK, whilst London specialises in Financial Services the other could specialise in another sector. Evan then brought up the idea of connecting the larger cities in the north to create this ‘second city’. Yet to achieve this we would need a lot of time and investment into their infrastructure. It would also involve many businesses having to relocate and merge to eliminate the spread and create specialised hubs. He explores this idea more in his mini series ‘Mind The Gap’.
In the Q&A portion of the talk Evan was asked who he believed would need to lead this change. The government could implement rules and restriction, as they did when they restricted office builds in Birmingham, but businesses may not relocate to where the government aimed them. All in all, it is investment which will spark this process and so we either need to encourage foreign investment into other locations, or relocate investment from London.
He was also asked if our continental colleagues experience the same issue. France experiences the same issue with Paris, but Germany has many large cities all specialising in different areas. However, this is due to each of the countries history. When Germany was split up, each sector had a dominant city which produce most of their output, so when Germany was unified it already had the infrastructure to lay way for the economy they have today.
To summarise, Evan believed that although London’s success can be addictive we must ensure that we offer choices. That people can choose to live in the hustle and bustle of a city or in the quaint splendor of the countryside.