The north of England is being badly neglected by the government despite its levelling up policy – and has some of the lowest spending of any advanced economy, a think-tank claims.
If it were a country, only Greece would see less public and private investment than the area above the Midlands, IPPR North’s study says.
Its findings come days after the government was accused of favouring relatively affluent south-eastern seats in the latest allocation of £2.1billion funding by Michael Gove’s Levelling Up department – although prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency in North Yorkshire got £19million for regeneration despite being one of the wealthiest.
The think-tank says Britain and the north of England are held back by ‘vast inequalities’ and ‘systematic under-investment’ in research and development, social infrastructure and transport.
Productivity is about £7 lower per hour worked in the north than England’s average and pay is £1.60 lower, it adds.
‘Of all advanced economies, ours is the most regionally divided and getting worse,’ said study author Marcus Johns.
‘The north is at the sharp end of these divides and that’s a barrier to prosperity.
‘But what’s even more unacceptable is that… it is the result of decisions. The north’s strengths are national strengths. Northern prosperity can be national prosperity.
‘It’s up to the government to unlock this potential by enabling empowered, well-resourced local government to co-ordinate and deliver long-term local visions for change.’
Out of 38 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) report put the UK 35th for investment as a proportion of national economy.
Hungary and Slovakia are higher, with Ireland top. Only Costa Rica, Luxembourg and Greece are below us.
Labour claimed London’s £151million funding beat Yorkshire’s £121million and the north-east’s £108million.
Second biggest recipient was the south-east on £210million. But the biggest amount allocated was the north-west at £350million.
On a visit to Accrington – receiving £20million to improve its town square – Mr Sunak said: ‘The region that has done the best in the amount of funding per person is the north.’
Awards included £40million for a carbon neutral education campus in Blackpool, £20million to regenerate Gateshead Quays and £50million for an Eden Project eco-tourism attraction on a derelict seafront site in Morecambe.
A government spokesperson said the report ‘fundamentally misrepresents the clear steps we are taking to level up the region’ and spread opportunity through freeports, devolution and attracting inward investment.
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