Non-metropolitan areas account for roughly half of England's economy and population. This means that their economic contribution, and their growth potential, is as significant for the nation as that of the big cities.
But their mix of businesses, and the challenges faced by areas of less dense population, of more diffuse transport networks, of market towns, green belts, and small cities, are different, and so is the pattern of governance. The future of the economy and public services in these areas deserves as much attention as that of cities.
The Non-Metropolitan Commission
The Commission, chaired by Sir John Peace, was established to review economic growth and the future of public services in non-metropolitan areas. A full list of Commissioners and the Commission's terms of reference can be found on the right, under Commission Pages.
The Commission explored the unique characteristics of non-metropolitan economies and their economic drivers, as well as what more could be done to promote growth and improve public services with the aim of delivering better outcomes for residents.
The Commission received evidence from nearly 60 organisations with an interest in the economic success of non-metropolitan areas and the future of public services, including councils, businesses and business groups, LEPs, voluntary and church bodies, and other public sector organisations.
The Commission published its Final report in March 2015. It is the third of three reports, and follows those delivering the findings of the RSA's City Growth and the Finance Commissions.
It makes seven clear recommendations around prosperity (skills and foreign direct investment); infrastructure (planning and transport, housing, digital connectivity and investment in infrastructure); and governance.
It warns that too much of the national debate on English devolution is being focused on London and major city centres, with not enough attention given to the counties, towns, small cities and suburban areas which account for more than half of England's economic output.
These non-metropolitan areas are home to multinational companies and have the highest skilled workforce and are driving growth, foreign direct investment, competitiveness and employment.
The report concludes that further growth in these areas will require serious capital investment to tackle skills shortages, improve transport and broadband and provide the affordable housing essential to business. It argues that devolution to England's non-metropolitan areas represents the best way to deliver the necessary investment in the context of reduced government funding to councils
The Commission published its interim report, ‘How the Other Half Grows: the future of prosperity and public services in non-metropolitan England' in November. The report illustrates the economic potential of non-metropolitan areas and sets out messages for central and local government.
A message from Sir John Peace, Chair of the Commission
"It is already clear that it is time to think about the reform that will make a real difference to England's non-metropolitan communities, and improve the quality of life and public services for everyone in the country.
"The Commission has made seven specific recommendations for reform to shape the way economic growth and public service transformation are supported in the future. These recommendations are as applicable to city regions as they are to non-metropolitan areas and a new government can take and implement them early in its term in order to give the country a further boost along the road to economic recovery."