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Empowering English Cities

Devolution energised by culture and creativity

From Liverpool City Region’s £10m investment in Shakespeare North to the determination of the West Midlands to make the most of Coventry City of Culture 2021, Combined Authorities have leveraged culture and creativity.​

With the formation of these authorities and election Metro Mayors, England has become slightly less centralised.

Publishing a report called Empowering English Cities, commissioned by the six English Mayoral Combined Authorities, Lord Michael Heseltine sets out his views on next steps on this journey.

There are two references to culture and creativity in his recommendations:

  • “The government should take all necessary steps to ensure its departments and all quangos cooperate with Combined Authorities in the exercise of their responsibilities.” Arts Council England are among numerous agencies that Heseltine describes as being, “of particular relevance”.
  • “The government should allow mayoral authorities to raise local taxes and charges. These could include … tourist tax and local cultural admission charges. With appropriate local exclusions, it is ludicrous for British tourists to pay to visit historic collections and buildings abroad while millions of visitors to this country enjoy free access.”

The Great Place Scheme is an Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund programme that aims to ensure that local investment in arts and culture has the greatest impact on local economies and communities. As the evaluators of Great Place, we know how relationships between economic development agencies and Arts Council England best work. We also explored the case for tourist taxes (or tourist levies) as research partners to the Cultural Cities Enquiry.

Whatever happens with Brexit, England requires further devolution, with culture and creativity vital to enabling places to fully benefit.

- Jonathan Todd, Chief Economist