Nations and the Wealth of Cities: A New Phase in Public Policy

In this report two of the UK’s leading cities experts document the emergence of a new phase in global cities policy.

The last forty years have seen governments sponsoring programmes and initiatives aimed at rebuilding and rejuvenating rundown urban areas, and tackling the social problems that de-industrialisation and the decline of urban economies left in their wake.

There are broadly three positions a national government can take towards its cities. The first is to overlook them. The second is to see them as a source of problems that need fixing. The third is to view them as full of potential that needs realising.

Now national and state-level governments are taking a more strategic approach to development. There are more and more examples of governments from around the globe focusing on ‘city systems’ and providing a strong national platform for city development – infrastructure investment, macro-economic policy, tax and regulatory reform – whilst devolving power and responsibility to cities themselves.

This report highlights examples of city oriented national policies and initiatives in the UK, that seek to marry local leadership with national frameworks in a global system.


The report suggests that national governments have two main tasks:

  1. First, they should try to actively support the whole system of cities with effective system level national policies in areas such as connectivity, regulatory and institutional frameworks, knowledge production and complementary asset endowments and specialisations.
  2. Second, national governments should focus on how they can better equip local leaders so that cities can be actively shaped and managed to achieve positive productivity, livability, and sustainability outcomes.



This report was generously supported by