City priorities

Australian cities tend to lead the world on quality of life scores and innovation in the workplace, but is the sheen starting to come off the former? New research published by the Committee for Sydney think tank, which benchmarked its position against other global cities, highlights some cracks. The report finds that: (1) residential accommodation is too expensive, (2) it needs to bolster its night-time economy and cultural breadth, (3) it is underinvested in transport infrastructure. These issues are not unique to Sydney and whilst there are some nuances around historic development typologies in Australia (typically not as dense as peer cities in Europe), these 3 factors also set a strategic prospectus of priorities for most UK cities. The problem in the UK is that we don’t have the luxury of fantastic beaches within reach of the CBD and year-round good weather. Against this backdrop, the challenges identified in Sydney are thrown into sharper relief. In a world driven by globalised knowledge services, the ability of a city to succeed rests on its ability to compete for talent (and vicariously then commerce) which will fuel its economic development. Both a lack of housing affordability and an underperforming transport infrastructure are, ironically, often indicators of a city’s success. However, they are also signs that policy is not succeeding, or at least not keeping pace at reallocating resources to match its growth. Culture has historically been missed from this equation; but nowadays is recognised as essential talent infrastructure in the same vein as housing and transport. It needs to be afforded similar priority.