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City States

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The main reason that the Shrinking Cities exhibition has been received with hostility (AJ 07.02.08) is that it is based on an irresponsible misuse of statistics.

Both Liverpool and Manchester actually share a problem of being expanding cities. They have grown well beyond their old, tightly drawn municipal
boundaries and restrictive systems of governance. Their true ‘city-region’ populations are
relatively stable, at many times the oft-quoted ‘city’ figures.
Thus, comparing Manchester with Milan or Liverpool with Hamburg is entirely reasonable. Liverpool and Manchester are entitled to view the future with a combination of optimism and hard-headedness, rather than wallowing in some kind of victim status defined by those living in comfortable academia elsewhere. If the same statistical methodology had been applied to Birmingham or London (inner
London boroughs, for example), they too would have been characterised as shrinking cities.
The true nature of the innercity problems, which stem partly from the disastrous policies of population clearance and dispersal to peripheral estates, is disguised by the shrinking cities caricature. The corrosive centralisation of UK institutions in the capital city, and the ongoing failure to address the governance of city regions (other than London) are the real issues.

Trevor Skempton, urban design consultant, Liverpool City Council

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