Core Cities Group

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Core Cities Group
HeadquartersManchester Town Hall
Region served
United Kingdom
Chris Murray
Judith Blake[1]

The Core Cities Group (also Core Cities UK) is a self-selected and self-financed collaborative advocacy group of large regional cities in the United Kingdom outside Greater London. The group was formed in 1995 and serves as a partnership of eleven city councils: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The Core Cities Group has wide-ranging interests, encompassing transport and connectivity, innovation and business support, skills and employment, sustainable communities, culture and creative industries, climate change, finance and industry, and governance. During 2012, the first wave of city deals recognised the eight cities as "the largest and most economically important English cities outside of London".[2] The group in 2020 featured a combined population of over 6 million within eleven of its cities.[3] It has been considered one of the most powerful political lobbying groups in the country.[4]


The group formed in 1995 and membership was made up of eight local authorities with city status; of which six are metropolitan borough councils and two are unitary authorities in the English local government system. These cities were: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. The local authorities came together to challenge the centralised nature of the British state[5] by advocating for the devolution of greater freedom and controls.[6] The eight city councils are also members of the pan-European Eurocities network, a group co-founded by Birmingham City Council.

In 2003 the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott addressed the Core Cities Group, advocating "choke-off growth in the economic powerhouse of London and the south-east" in order to stimulate growth and productivity within the Core Cities.[7]

With the exception of Bradford and Hull, the initial members of the group mirrored the first county boroughs, that is the 10 English cities "dealt with as separate counties" under the Local Government Act 1888. Since 2010 several British cities outside England began discussions for incorporation into the group. In August 2014, Glasgow joined the group as the first non-English city,[8] followed by Cardiff in 2014[9] and Belfast joined in 2019. Though Edinburgh has taken part in meetings and was approached about membership, it has never officially been a member of the group.[10][11]

In 2018, Bristol hosted the first meeting of Core Cities Group leaders with combined authority mayors.[5] In October 2018 the group published a report titled "Cities 2030: Global Success, Local Prosperity", arguing for the economic potential of British cities - where they lag behind international counterparts - combined with a vision for cities.[6]

Government lobbying and issues[edit]

Devolution and greater powers[edit]

The Core Cities Group (CCG) have published research on the utilised benefits of more powerful cities that have greater economic control, particularly in growth and productivity.[12][10] During the passage of the Localism Act 2011, the group promoted the 'Core Cities amendment' to allow for bespoke decentralisation to its members, which was successfully incorporated.[13] Several of the 'City Deals' subsequently agreed between the Cabinet Office/Department for Communities and Local Government in 2012 included enhanced powers and city regional working at their core, including new combined authorities, thanks to the provision.[14] The introduction of directly-elected mayors to combined authorities in England and the devolution of housing, transport, planning and policing powers to them were provisions contained in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.[15]

In 2015 the CCG published a report calling for devolution to England that gives powers similar to those of Scottish Parliament and to give the city-regions greater fiscal devolution by 2025.[16] In 2016, Core Cities and Key Cities, together representing 36 of the UK's largest cities, issued a joint statement calling for greater powers to deliver a more inclusive economy.[17] In 2020, the 11 councils of the CCG and the 32 London Boroughs within the London Councils group agreed to lobby for greater fiscal devolution, including "the right to introduce a tourism tax, borrow against future revenue and reforms to business rates and council tax."[3][18]

Other issues[edit]

An interest of the group is the High Speed 2 project to interlink the larger British cities faster.[19] Believing it will bring an economic advantage to the core cities.[20] In 2019 Judith Blake, chair of the Core Cities Group and leader of Leeds City Council wrote "HS2 is more than just a railway line, it will unlock future jobs, training and regeneration opportunities that will benefit many of our 20 million citizens. Core Cities UK believes HS2 is a game-changer for the Midlands and the north".[1]

The Core Cities Group has attempted to establish a dialogue with the European Union and the British government in the negotiations to leave the European Union, following the 2016 EU referendum. The combined electorate of the ten core cities saw 56% vote for remain.[21] It was noted by Cardiff council leader Huw Thomas that EU investment out-weight the British Government's city deals.[22] Because of this, the group has lobbied the government to maintain EU regeneration schemes in negotiations[23] The group has also met chief European negotiator Michel Barnier.[22] In 2019, the leaders of the cities in the group sent a letter to Prime Minister May asking her to avoid a no-deal Brexit.[24] The Core Cities Group cities were beneficiaries of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), an investment program designed to maintain town and city investment after Brexit.[25] The group criticised the government for the amount and asked that the fund be doubled to £4bn to lead to its work reaching £28bn by 2026.[26]

During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom the Core Cities Group advocated City Recovery Deals and a Cities Recovery Fund to facilitate good finances for cities following the pandemic and its subsequent lockdown.[27] In May 2020 the CCG reported their councils had £1.5bn collectively and advocated financial support from the gov.[28]


City Country Local authority Leader
(political affiliation)
City population Urban area population Metro area population[29]
Belfast  Northern Ireland Belfast City Council Tina Black 341,877 - 799,000
Birmingham  England Birmingham City Council Ian Ward 1,144,919 2,440,986 3,683,000
Bristol  England Bristol City Council Marvin Rees 472,465 617,280 1,041,000
Cardiff  Wales Cardiff Council Huw Thomas 362,400 447,287 1,097,000
Glasgow  Scotland Glasgow City Council Susan Aitken 626,410 1,209,143 1,395,000
Leeds  England Leeds City Council Judith Blake 811,956 1,901,934 2,302,000
Liverpool  England Liverpool City Council Joanne Anderson 486,088 864,122 2,241,000
Manchester  England Manchester City Council Bev Craig 551,938 2,553,379 2,556,000
Newcastle  England Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes 300,125 774,891 1,599,000
Nottingham  England Nottingham City Council David Mellen 323,632 729,977 1,534,000
Sheffield  England Sheffield City Council Terry Fox 556,521 685,368 1,569,000


  1. ^ a b "Prime Minister reaffirms government commitment to HS2". Planning, BIM & Construction Today. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Manchester City Deal brings 6,000 jobs boost – Announcements". 20 March 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b Bounds, Andy; Thomas, Daniel (10 February 2020). "UK's cities and councils call for fiscal devolution". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  4. ^ Hannah Fearn (21 December 2014). "Local government shake-up: British cities seek to raise own taxes and go it alone". The Independent. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b Marvin Rees (1 October 2018). "Marvin Rees: The case for the Global Parliament of Mayors". City Metric. New Statesman. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  6. ^ a b Judith Blake (31 October 2018). "The future of cities in the UK: A vision for 2030". Open Access Government. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  7. ^ Simon Parker (6 June 2003). "Provincial cities 'holding back' England". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Historic moment as Core Cities welcomes Glasgow into group". 14 August 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  9. ^ Sarah Dickins (9 February 2015). "Cardiff joins the big hitting cities". BBC News. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  10. ^ a b Susanna Rustin (23 January 2015). "The new city centres: the alternative establishment that wants to wrest power from the capital". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Competitive Scottish Cities?: Scotland's Cities in the UK and European Context". The City of Edinburgh Council: 3. 12 April 2005. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  12. ^ Chris Murray (2 February 2012). "Core cities: laying down the foundations for growth". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  13. ^ "Core Cities amendment to the Localism Bill clears the House of Commons". Core Cities Group website. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
  14. ^ "City Deals and Growth Deals". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  15. ^ "Bringing our country together: cities, towns and counties to get stronger powers" (Press release). 29 May 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  16. ^ "Core Cities lay out devolution timetable for England". Public Sector Executive. 9 February 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Key Cities and Core Cities speak with one voice at autumn statement". Core Cities. 24 November 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  18. ^ Hailstone, Jamie (10 February 2020). "UK Shared Prosperity Fund 'may disadvantage Londoners'". NewStart. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  19. ^ "UK's big cities support launch of HS2 consultation". Archived from the original on 5 February 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  20. ^ Martin, Dan (9 September 2019). "HS2 could allow direct hourly Leicester to Leeds trains". Leicester Mercury. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  21. ^ Peter Box (27 June 2018). "Britain is full of powerful mid-sized cities. Let's unlock their potential". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  22. ^ a b "Brexit: Cardiff leader presses Barnier for 'strong links' with EU". BBC News. 19 February 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  23. ^ Jennifer Rankin (19 February 2018). "UK cities shut out of Brexit discussions, say leaders". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  24. ^ Ruth Mosalski (13 March 2019). "Live updates as MPs reject no-deal Brexit by 312 to 308 votes". Wales Online. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  25. ^ Vinter, Robyn. "Yorkshire hosts some of England's most deprived neighbourhoods". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  26. ^ Conrad, Mark (26 September 2019). " - Your authority on UK local government - Core Cities' £28bn Shared Prosperity Fund warning". LocalGov. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  27. ^ Jameson, Heather (11 May 2020). "Put localism at the heart of recovery, say city leaders". Local Government Network. Hemming Information Services. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  28. ^ Bounds, Andy (26 May 2020). "Liverpool's £241m Covid-19 deficit poses threat to local services". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  29. ^ "British urban pattern: population data" (PDF). ESPON project 1.4.3 Study on Urban Functions. European Spatial Planning Observation Network. March 2007. p. 119. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2010.

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