Does ‘trickle out’ work? How cities help their surrounding towns

Think tank: Centre for Cities

Author(s): Paul Swinney

September 5, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Centre for Cities looks challenges the misleading political narrative that pits towns against cities.

A big problem for the UK economy is the underperformance of its largest cities outside London, which in 2018 alone meant that the UK economy was £48 billion (2.3%) smaller than it would have been had these cities performed in line with their European peers. It is for this reason that improving the performance of these places has become central to UK economic policy. A critique of this approach, which has been adopted by both main parties, is that in order to bring prosperity to surrounding towns it relies on this prosperity to ‘trickle out’ to them, with opponents claiming this does not work. This piece shows the opposite – big cities do bring benefit to their surrounding areas, and their on-going underperformance reduces the extent to which they are able to do this.