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  • HOPE not hate

The meaning of city status

The tragic murder of Sir David Amess MP last week shook the country, prompting an outpouring of tributes from across the political spectrum. His death raises questions about democracy and the protection of public servants. Our thoughts at HOPE not hate are with Amess’s family, during an unbelievably difficult time. (The formal HOPE not hate statement is here).

Image taken from original source.

In a tribute to David Amess, the Prime Minsiter this week granted City Status to Southend-on-Sea. Amess's constituency was in Southend, and the campaign for City status was one he had pursued for much of his parliamentary career. The local paper in Southend this week speculated on what City status would mean, and local politicians set out a range of ambitious targets.

At one level, city status is purely ceremonial, bringing nothing extra by way of resources or political power. But at another it is anything but, reinforcing an area’s identity and sense of place, and strengthening its centre of economic gravity. As David Amess himself put it, shortly before his death, City status would "absolutely transform things in Southend and raise civic pride."

Image taken from original source.

Our 2020 report, Understanding Community Resilience in our Towns, identified a number of ostensibly symbolic ‘assets’, which tended to correlate with higher community resilience. This included a medieval history, City status, County Town or market town status, a well-known military barracks, a professional football club, or the presence of a university (see pages 51-52). Places with each of these things tend to be more confident, welcoming and optimistic than those without.

City status does not get to the root causes of low community resilience. But it does change, for the better, the story that a town is able to tell about itself. As such it is a really important cause, and one which, in Southend, represents a fitting tribute to Sir David Amess.


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