Citizen launches campaign to FINALLY make Milton Keynes a city

We are calling on the new MK Council to make a renewed bid to turn MK into an official city

By Sally Murrer
Monday, 10th May 2021, 11:10 am

Few of us living in MK have not been guilty of referring to our town as a city.

Ever since the plans for the 'new city' were drawn up more than half a century ago, locals have adopted the term and used it freely.

And why shouldn't we? We have a 'city centre', a city church, a Milton Keynes City Football Club and we're known throughout the UK as the city of roundabouts and concrete cows.

Milton Keynes is not officially a city

But officially MK is a town, albeit the biggest town in Buckinghamshire.

Our council has made several bids for city status over the years, with the most recent ones in 2000, 2002 and 2012, but they have always lost out to the likes of Chelmsford, Preston, Perth in Scotland and Newport in Wales.

Labour councillors have said they would be prepared to make a fresh bid, possibly this year, to become the 70th official city in England. And both Conservative MPs have said they will support their application.

If this fails, they could have another shot next year, when pundits predict one or more towns will be bestowed with the status by the Queen to mark her platinum jubilee in June 2022.

Old signs welcome people to the 'new city' of Milton Keynes. Photo: Living Archive

But the problem is that, following last Thursday's election, our council is 'hung' - with no party as yet in overall control. The Tories, who now have the most seats, are putting pressure on the Liberal Democrats to end the partnership that has seen Labour lead Milton Keynes Council since 2014.

The council's current Labour leader Pete Marland told the Citizen: it's time to renew our bid to gain city status. Milton Keynes is now at the heart of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc and our place as the leading population, economic and social centre will only continue to increase in the next few years.

He added: "Labour aims for a city deal to ensure MK grows in the right way, with jobs and green environment at the heart of our plans, rather than developer-led growth. We will again seek city status as part of the package."

MK's two Conservatives MPs are in agreement - at least about the city status.

In a joint statement, Iain Stewart (MP for MK South), Ben Everitt (MP for MK North) and Alex Walker (leader of MK Conservative councillors, told the Citizen: "MK Conservatives have been campaigning for City status for many years, in particular during our 50th birthday. While the council has not approached us regarding any bid, we would welcome support from any organisation that wants to help us achieve that aim.”

Many people think a town needs a cathedral to become a city. In fact, this is incorrect. All UK towns, through their local council, can apply - whether they have an Anglican cathedral or not.

But MK is not the only town vying for city status. Already Ipswich has declared an interest in applying for the honour during the Queen's jubilee year. Other contenders for the hotly-fought honour could be Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton, Bournemouth, Colchester, Doncaster, Middlesborough, Reading, Southend and Swindon. Even neighbouring Northampton, which applied unsuccessfully 20 years ago, could make a fresh bid.

Surprisingly, receiving city status does not bring any benefits, extra funding or new powers for the local council - it simply gives a town the right to refer to itself as a city.

But, according to experts at the MK-based Open University, the status can be a 'marker of identity and national significance' in terms of economy, culture, scientific knowledge and social advancement.

"Cities market themselves and are recognised as centres of commerce, heritage, creativity and other specialisms. Think of Edinburgh and cultural events such as the Fringe, or think of London and its stock markets. Being a city is to be elevated to a greater level of national significance," said an OU spokesman.