Making Leeds the Best City in The UK…

That is the challenge laid down to us by the new Leeds City Council Chief Executive, Tom Riordan.

What would it mean for any city to be the best?

What criteria would be used to decide and bestow such an accolade?

And who would it be ‘best’ for?  Employers?  Residents? Students? Homeless? Artists? Financiers? Children? Elders?

But suppose we framed the question of ‘best’ differently, and asked how we could make everyone in the city feel like Leeds was the ‘best’ place for them to be to make the most of their life and to fully explore and develop their potential?

To live their life the way they want to, making their own decisions and living with the consequences.  Feeling valued, respected and like they belong here.  Feeling supported in a community that they enjoy and contributing to it fully.

Now that would be a question worth asking.   An accolade worth pursuing.  A league table worth topping.

It would almost certainly not depend on physical infrastructure, but on psychological infrastructure.  A network of relationships, support and encouragement that valued people, regardless of wealth or education, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or age.  A psychological infrastructure in which help could be asked for and offered.  A city in which collaboration, association and innovation in the pursuit of progress was everyone’s business

It would be a city of enterprise and compassion.


  1. Nicely put, Mike, but now we need to work out how it’s done! I’ve been thinking along the same lines, although my word would have been ‘generosity’ rather than compassion. Either way, it opposes the general trait of selfishness presented in Leeds by everything from how we do business to how we use the roads.
    When Tom Riordan spoke to us at a recent leadership event at the council he was the first to point out that the concept of ‘the best’ needed to be unpacked. Council staff (and not just the chiefs!) are being encouraged to join the debate so between us all let’s find some answers.
    My gut instinct having lived in both cities is that there’s a more generous spirit in Newcastle than Leeds…so how do they do that?

    • John,

      Many thanks for reading the post and taking the time to comment. It is very much appreciated.

      I have been developing practical ideas on how it should be done for a few years now, and for a while was even taken semi-seriously by bits of the Narrowing the Gap board. However ‘person’ and ‘community centred’ approaches can not guarantee to hit the targets and numbers set by policy makers and funders in Whitehall silos and beyond. As Isobel Mills once said ‘If you want make sure that your project is never funded then make it a cross cutting project’. Well person centred projects do cut across public sector silos and therefore take real courage to fund. If you are commissioned to reduce teenage pregnancies or obesity you are going to commission workers to deliver on those specific objectives rather than more person centred roles. So are communities are flooded by outreach workers all pursuing outcomes for funders. And none of them able to deliver person centred transformational relationships. Tragic.

      Newcastle is interesting. I am working in Byker at the moment developing approaches to person centred coaching. As far as I can see the problems there are no less acute than they are here in Leeds. In fact they are probably worse. People are people. Perhaps the stereotype of the friendly Geordie has some truth to it. As perhaps does that of the dour Yorkshireman. But ‘we all bleed red’. There maybe some learned differences in generosity and community mindedness, but these are at the margins I would suspect. Later this month I have a meeting with stakeholders in the city to see whether a transformation to person centred approaches might be possible.

      For me however, the solution does not lie in pondering about what happens in other cities, but about thinking long, hard and courageously about what we do in ours to provide the kind of transformational support that individuals and communities require if their futures are going to be significantly better than their present. For me these are facilitative, person centred services that build and use real social capital in the city. And this is not expensive work….

  2. Jamie Saunders says:

    Enterprise and compassion harnessing ‘progress’ for flourishing lives and places, connected and connecting to leave a positive legacy for future generations. Acting wisely… responding to feedback and enjoying the journey … See also blog post leaders-towards-sustainability
    thought provoking post for a Friday morning … cheers Mike


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Chitty and Michael Chitty, sunshinebakeryca. sunshinebakeryca said: RT @mikechitty: Making #Leeds the Best City in The UK…: meeting the @tomriordan challenge… […]

  2. […] we make Leeds the best city in the UK? That is the challenge being put down by LCC Chief Exec Tom Riordan and being taken up by social […]

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