It was great to get back to City Breakfast last week, the first get together of 2019 and fantastic to see so many of our sponsors and their guests coming together for what is now I believe the largest breakfast group in the City.
January saw the launch of the Centre for Cities 2019 report which focuses on the importance of cities to the economy, and more specifically in this report, focusses on the impact of austerity on most cities up and down the UK. The report concluded that whilst cities only take up 9% of the UK landmass, they house 54% of the population and provide 70% of the most productive jobs and economic output. To that extent, their success is essential to the financial and social well-being of the country and their regions as a whole. However, when it came to budget reductions during the period of austerity, 74% of government spending cuts have been focused on cities generally.
According to the report, Milton Keynes seems to have fared relatively well, compared to some of the cities. For example:
- In the last 10 years, Milton Keynes has seen a reduction in total council spending of 7.1%, against a UK average of 14.3%.
- Changes in social care spending was up 6% against a national average of 7.8% which is partially reflected by the current demographic of the city in the most simple form of analysis.
- Against the backdrop of cuts in the central grant from government, MK has increased its council tax base by over 8% which is the fourth highest in the country.
- MK Council has also seen the greatest increase in reserves in line with Coventry over the ten year period and has tripled them during that time, albeit they have in part been ring fenced into certain protected areas – still not a bad achievement.
From a business perspective, Milton Keynes continues to perform well, according to the report. Highlights include:
- MK being the city with the 5th highest number of start-ups in the UK.
- It ranks 3rd in terms of number of businesses per head of population, and has the third largest gross value added per worker alongside London and Slough.
- Against this backdrop, and bearing in mind this is data from 2017, MK saw a reduction in the number pf private sector jobs dip of 2.1% compared to the previous year.
- Employees have the 9th highest level of weekly earnings in the UK, albeit that it has the 6th highest increase in house price growth at 6.1% against national average of 2.7%.
- With skill sets in mind, MK only ranks as average when measuring the number of residents with high qualifications, which is an important part to the development of any city.
- And, very sadly, we are at the bottom of the table, apart from Aberdeen when it comes to measuring the amount of ultrafast broadband penetration rate, a key essential for developing the digital economy.
So, with that in mind, the Council launched the CMK Prospectus which was launched at the Red Bull Racing headquarters last month; as made clear by Andrew Carter, the speaker from Centre for Cities, the cities that perform well as a whole, have city centres that are innovation hotspots, and focused on knowledge-based industries and digital growth. If you haven’t seen the report, you can view it here; it covers the element of Plan 50 known as CMK Renaissance and I will give you a quick rundown of the projects, which have been announced and are in train at the current time.
- In terms of offices, alongside some very significant developments such as New City Place, Santander has announced the development of a new technology hub, opposite its existing building by the station to house 5000 staff.
- In Campbell Park, the Campbell Wharf development alongside the canal is already under construction, and the proposals for Campbell Park NorthSide which will encompass the development of 1500 new homes are currently being worked up.
- The opening of the new extension to MK Gallery is to take place in mid-March this year.
- Hotel la Tour has recently been granted planning permission to build its 240 bedroom hotel and restaurant, overlooking Campbell Park.
- The design competition for MK:U, the new city centre University, being partnered by Cranfield University was launched this week with a view to it opening in 2023. We had a great presentation from Prof Lynette Ryals back in November and I’m sure all of you that were here were impressed by the vision for that space and building which will house up to 15,000 students focusing on digital and cyber intelligence as well as design and entrepreneurship programs. Just what the city needs and why we need investment in the digital infrastructure.
- And if all that wasn’t enough, there are proposals to promote the transformation of Midsummer Boulevard East around the market and out to the theatre, as well as improvements to Station Square itself.
As you can see, that’s quite a lot for our city to be getting on with! And when you bring that together with the overall development plans for housing and growth, there is going to be a lot going on over the next couple of years. Busy and exciting times for MK.
By Paul Davis