Balancing London? A preliminary investigation of the “Core Cities” and “Northern Way” spatial policy initiatives using multi-city corporate and commercial law firms

This paper reports a preliminary investigation into the economic efficacy of two spatial frameworks – English Core Cities and the Northern Way – recently promoted by national policy makers. We ask whether they are consistent with contemporary economic process in the UK space economy through analyses of commercial multi-city law firms. The latter are treated as an ‘indicator sector’ to define the contemporary UK space economy as practised by law firms. Within this new space of flows, the location strategies of the law firms do confirm the salience of the Northern Way (as trans-Pennine corridor) and Core Cities as part of a larger UK metropolitan space of flows. Conflating the two spatial frameworks leads us to identify hints of a rebalancing of London within a metropolitan UK space. A Manchester polycentric mega-city region is found to be the likely candidate for this role. This finding in no way impinges on London’s dominant global role and we conclude that perhaps mutuality between London and provincial cities is beginning to replace past negative dependency relations.