Since the 1980's UK cities have been transformed into service led economic hubs, this was a stark contrast to their previous guise as largely manufacturing cities. The need for modernisation of our economy was great, and many cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff benefited greatly in the long term. This however could not be said for the City of Stoke on Trent which has faced a number of problems since Thatcher decided to change the path of the British economy.
The inherent problem for Stoke in its attempts to modernise is its position in the country, being in the middle of the 2 hubs of Manchester and Birmingham it was very difficult for the city to differentiate itself from their neighbours. Another problem for Stoke was that in many cases, their entire history was based on the Pottery industry and with the government support waning and cheaper foreign competitors closing in, its main strength was practically redundant. With the rising levels of unemployment which came from this came a multiplier effect of crime and deprivation, all of which making it a less prestigious place for private investment, the signs for the city were not looking promising.
However a turning point came in 1997, when the progressive policies of the Tony Blair government, especially his education drive allowed places like Stoke to improve. This was because the more education investment and education opportunities for local people made the area a more inviting place for investment. The EU grant which helped improve Staffordshire University and Stoke on Trent college to allow high quality education to be on the doorstep of local people. Also investment in infrastructure for the A500 bypass and the general refurbishment of the city meant that the area was prepared for large scale investments, which paid off when Michelin and Wedgwood both returned and re-invested into the city, meaning unemployment and education are becoming less of a problem.
However it would be foolish to say that Stoke on Trent is now bereft of problems, there are still issues going on with failed regeneration attempts draining money away, inter-town disputes meaning money is not going to the right places and problems with racial tensions that flare up at important times for the city which in turn has caused the regeneration process to break down, but by and large it is on the right track.
I do believe that there are still opportunities for Stoke to improve its national standing even further, maybe by playing on their famous citizens such as Robbie Williams and Garth Crooks, they could get even more of a higher national profile. Furthermore taking advantage of their close proximity to the peak district they could tap into the tourism revenue which is there. In conclusion Stoke on Trent is a city which has had struggles in the transition to a service led economy but it is well on the way to recovery and with plenty of more opportunities to flourish I leave you with a line from the local football team "The future is bright, the future is red and white".BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS