After a year of protests, media coverage, and political attention, a new report of 32 smart cities by ARUP and Centre for CitiesUK City Leaders Survey 2019 – reveals that climate change has jumped up the agenda for leaders of smart cities across the UK.

Last year’s report saw city leaders calling for more devolved powers and focusing on funding issues and economic growth. This year, their focus is still on the perennial issue of funding but has expanded to climate change and air pollution, as well as funding for housing and public services.

  • 50% of respondents see climate change as a key issue in 2019, compared to 5% in 2018
  • public transport, climate change mitigation and social housing are seen as the most urgent spending priorities
  • 41% said tackling climate change was being obstructed by deficiencies in national government
  • 81% said they would be willing to spend more on combating climate change if central government provided more support
  • 63% want citizens to move from cars to public transport or ‘active’ forms of transport (walking or cycling)
  • 48% want more investment in buses (up from one-third last year)
  • 94% want central government to allocate funds to boots public transport options
  • 75% want to increase active transport to combat air pollution.

The report also looked at how the digital economy was impacting cities and found that taxi-hailing apps from companies such as Uber and Lyft were regarded as having a positive effect by 47% of city leaders. However, 42% said these apps were still not available in their city. In comparison, only 13% of respondents thought that holiday and letting platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway had a positive impact on their city.

“Cities account for the majority of the country’s population and jobs but there is a concern in city halls that the urban agenda is being side-lined,” comments Centre for Cities’ CEO Andrew Carter.

That may be the case, but Omnisperience would argue that rural areas feel exactly the same. The report, however, really outlines the divide between local and city authorities versus central government in the UK, with the centralisation of both power and money being in the latter.

What this means for B2B service providers

B2B service providers should heed the new priorities for local authorities and city councils. Emphasising the green credentials of technology and how it can help reduce pollution are key for sales and marketing in 2020. Enterprises are often motivated by different goals and drivers, but as environmental issues rise up the agenda, they too will be prioritising these in order to meet the demands of customers, hit targets, and generate positive press for their business.

Also notable is the rise in interest in shared transport options such as buses, with 29% seeing public transport as their top priority in 2020. Those B2B service providers with strong offerings in transport & travel should take heart.

Posted by Teresa Cottam

Teresa is the Chief Analyst at Omnisperience and has over 25 years' experience in the telecoms and technology markets. She is an expert on SME and enterprise telecoms, and has considerable vertical market expertise. Her research focus lies in helping B2B telecoms firms become more commercially successful by better understanding and meeting their customers' needs. She is a judge of the GSMA Global Mobile Awards (GloMo's) for customer experience and enterprise innovation, and for the UK Cloud awards. You can follow her on Twitter @teresacottam

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