Northampton and Milton Keynes bid for City Status as part of Queen's Platinum jubilee celebrations

  • Watch a video report by ITV News Anglia's Rob Halden-Pratt

Northampton and Milton Keynes are the latest towns to confirm they will be bidding to become cities.

The Government has launched a competition to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. The contest will grant winning towns and cities with ‘city status’ and ‘Lord Mayor or Provost status’ for the first time in 10 years.

Under the last contest - to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee - Chelmsford was granted city status, becoming the only city in Essex.

What makes a city?

Isn't a city just a big town with a cathedral?

City status in the UK has long been associated with having a cathedral, but city status is dependent on a royal approval.

According to Mark Sandford, an expert in local government, the connection is historical. In the past cities were settlements with a cathedral, so some small places which are now regarded as small - such as Ely - have long had city status.

A cathedral is not a requirement for city status. Birmingham was the first town without a cathedral to become a city, in 1889.

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How is city status won?

Over the last 20 years - city status has been awarded through competition, usually held to mark a special occasion.

In 2000 Brighton, Inverness and Wolverhampton were awarded city status to mark the new Millennium.

In 2002 Newport in Wales, Preston, Stirling, , Lisburn and Newry were awarded the honour to mark the Golden Jubilee

Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph were granted city status in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee.

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Are there any benefits to becoming a city?

According to the think tank Centre for Cities UK cities 21% more productive than non-urban areas and host 72% of all highly skilled jobs.

Essex councillors say that Chelmsford has benefitted from becoming a city in 2012 - seeing large scale investments in housing, new retail opportunities and plans for a second train station.

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What other myths are there?

Some people think that having a Lord Mayor implies city status - but you can only use the title officially if you've had letters patent granted by the monarch. Having a lord mayor is not an indicator of city status.

Only a few Cities are 'permanent' - London is one of a handful in the country which can claim it has been a city from 'time immemorial'.

Rochester in Kent lost its individual city status after a local government reorganisation back in the 1970s.

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Northampton is bidding to become England's 53rd UK City - the Town and West Northamptonshire Council's are supporting the bid. They say the town is a 'city at heart' not they hope the Government will agree.

Northampton - a 'city at heart' Credit: ITV News Anglia

Cllr Jonathan Nunn, Leader of West Northamptonshire Council said it would be a deserved recognition.

"There's an ambition in the air - not just around council corridors - but amongst residents. It's really time for Northampton to get its act together and be the best it can be. It's seen a massive change in town centres, which has been something we've continued to measure our town by for the last 50 years or so.

"We're realising we have got a lot - a lot of culture, some great communities, some fantastic businesses and so on. I see civic pride growing, which perhaps we've not seen for a while."

The town has long been synonymous with the shoe industry but those backing the bid were keen to point out it boast three top level sporting clubs.

Cobblers, Steelbacks and Saints Credit: ITV News

Northampton won't be alone though. Milton Keynes has also confirmed its going for the coveted city prize too.

The home of the Open University is sending its bid to London by robot - the starship delivery service that's been running in the area since 2018.

It comes after Southend became England's 52nd city - a tribute to MP Sir David Amess who'd championed the cause so passionately before his killing in October.