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School of Geography

Case Study Cities - Leeds

Leeds city markets building

Case-study: Leeds (United Kingdom)

Fieldwork: Winter 2011

Authors: Sara Gonzalez (local researcher) & Stijn Oosterlynck (guest researcher)

Title: Crisis and resilience in a finance-led city

Abstract:

Leeds is a medium-sized city in Northern England which has in the last decades specialised in finance and service sector. After an economic and property boom in the 2000s the global financial crisis in the 2007 significantly affected the local development path; big property schemes collapsed and the finance sector lost thousands of jobs . The image of Leeds as a financial city was put at risk and there was a strong regional reaction to save jobs in some of the rescued banks located in and around Leeds. Beyond these particular activities there has not been a concerted response to the crisis at the local scale. This is partly to do with political changes nationally and locally and the nature of the local political culture in Leeds. Unlike Manchester, Leeds is not seen as a city with strong local leadership but a much more diffuse governance network. In May 2010 election the labour party won the elections but it did not bring any significantly different plans to approach the crisis. In fact, the labour-run local authority has found itself having to implement huge budget cuts from the new conservative -libdem coalition formed nationally after the May 2010 elections. These changes nationally and locally are starting to change the local political culture in Leeds.  The new chief executive has talked about the new role of the local authority as a "civic entrepreneur", taking risks and functioning more efficiently. The wider scale of the city-region is also becoming much more relevant as national public sector cuts have scrapped the former regional governance structures.

Despite the overall negative impact of the crisis on the real estate and financial sector the main story coming out from the Leeds case study is that of a resilient economy; its diverse nature has been able to adapt to the changes. However, the "socialisation of crisis" and the new politics of austerity phase has started to show very significant public sector cuts which will probably exacerbate the polarised nature of the city.