Headlines: March 13th, 2006

Government ministers have begun a new series of ‘summit’ meetings in cities and towns, following the success of meetings last year in the eight so-called Core Cities. Ministers now want to engage with a broader range of places and will be holding meetings until the end of May.The first, in Ipswich, was for cities in the Eastern Region and it will be followed by a meeting next week in Exeter for representatives from towns and cities in the south west. Other meetings will be for coastal cities, growing places and towns and cities from the North East and North West of England. Venues for those sessions have still to be announced.

The events will be led by David Miliband, the Minister for Communities and Local Government, accompanied by Ministers from across Whitehall departments. They will meet members of local authorities, other service providers, local business people and groups of 16-18 year olds. The idea behind this year’s round of six summits is to give Ministers a detailed understanding of the assets, barriers and enablers at work in urban areas that are not Core Cities. The discussions will also explore what actions are needed for improved economic, social and environmental performance.

The range of issues to be debated will depend on what links the places taking part, but all the meetings will ask a common series of questions, including what is the economic rationale for a place, what long term vision it has, what cities and towns can do and what the Government can do to help.

The Government believes cities and towns are crucial to the country’s future as they are the hubs of economic growth but they also face major challenges of social deprivation and inequalities. It is accepted that a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work and that challenges can be dealt with most effectively at local level.