Brummies are investing £10bn with the aim of becoming the UK's 'Second City', will it be enough to beat the other contenders?
Your opinion as to which is the UK's "Second City" may well depend on where in the country you live.
Brummies feel that the title belongs to them. Mancunians disagree. Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle (to name but three others) may well have aspirations. And that’s just England – what about the claims of Edinburgh, Glasgow (which once claimed to be the Second City of the Empire), Cardiff or Belfast?
For anyone who lives south of Watford Gap and wonders what the fuss is about, this is an important issue. Our great mercantile centres are all undergoing significant redevelopment and are desperate to attract new occupiers from both the public and private sectors. The Second City tag really does matter. The conventional wisdom is that it is particularly helpful when trying to attract investment from abroad.
So which city deserves the title? The debate seems to centre on whether it should belong to Birmingham or Manchester. Brum is arguably the traditional choice and is certainly a far bigger conurbation (it is over twice Manchester’s size). However, last year a BBC poll had 48% of people deciding Manchester deserved the tag with only 40% choosing Brum.
Brum is arguably the traditional choice and is certainly a far bigger conurbation (it is over twice Manchester’s size)
Not that Birmingham’s civic leaders are taking things lying down. They have just launched their Big City Plan – with £10bn of investment planned for the 800ha at the heart of the city.
It’s all linked to Brum’s stated desire to improve its standing in Mercer Human Resource Consulting’s list of the most liveable cities in the world.
Birmingham is already 55th (equal with Glasgow; London is 39th and Dublin 24th; Manchester doesn’t make the list) and wants to climb into the top 25. Mercer’s gradings are based on 39 “key quality-of-life issues” including political stability, currency-exchange regulations, political and media censorship, school quality, housing, the environment and public safety.
At the moment the Big City Plan is very much in development. But it is undoubtedly an ambitious plan to continue the transformation of Birmingham. I for one hope that Brum’s civic leaders pull it off.