A City Growth Commissioner is on the RSA blog today musing on “Creating Creative Cities: How the City Growth Commission report can unlock innovation and entrepreneurship across the UK”. It comes on top of a small avalanche of reports from the Commission, and thus the article’s key suggestions on creativity seem a little underwhelming when you consider the amount of research undertaken…

* incubator spaces close to university campuses
* support local angel investment networks
* better train services into London
* attract bright graduates (obligatory mention of Richard Florida…)
* faster broadband

Rather fresher are the key ideas of the City Growth Commission’s new report on universities, UniverCities

* universities could actively match their best graduates with local jobs and housing
* graduates who work locally for some years could have their student loan written off, via local industry sponsorship
* allow sandwich years in degrees for employment
* university-awarded ‘graduate entrepreneur visas’, enabling the best graduating overseas students to stay in the UK longer
* an enterprise module on all degree courses

The Commission’s final report (90 min video) has also appeared, calling for national government to take note of agglomerations of de facto city regions, and their growing aspirations, in the wake of the devolution debate. Notting-derby and Wolver-brumi-hul might be apt names for two such Midlands ‘city regions’ which exist for citizens and businesses, if not for their turf-defending local councils. The report holds out the tantalising prospect of “Devolved City Status” to those city regions able to knock bureaucratic heads together and work together effectively. They’d be rewarded by being able to lower or raise local taxes, would enjoy no ring-fencing of government grants, and more — all without having to accept a City Mayor or similar Whitehall-imposed mechanism to do it. The authors suggest this should get underway swiftly… “Bids would be received following the general election on a rolling basis.”

That may sound risky to those who have learned to distrust local councils — such as those who may remember the socialist rule of Militant Tendency sending Liverpool into chaos in the 1980s, or who grew up with the hideous modern architecture foisted on cities by misguided councilors in the 1970s. Or, more recently, who are aware of the bizzare geographical boundaries that can result from political horse-trading and animosities at the local level. Or who have suffered from the disastrous local implementation of the Housing Pathfinder schemes.

But it’s probably no more risky than continuing with the ‘one size fits all’ / ‘Whitehall knows best’ approach that has been stifling many ambitious cities for decades. I guess the thing will be to persuade people that it won’t mean an extra layer of taxes, an extra layer of politicians and shiny new offices to house them, and that local people won’t be subject to loony Militant Tendency-like ideological experiments by power-mad councils. The “green crap” springs immediately to mind in that last regard.