IPPR North has published analysis of regional inequality in the UK, which the think tank said exposes “the alarming extent” of divides across the country, “created and worsened” by most power being held in Whitehall.
The State of the North 2019 report said the country is more regionally divided than comparable countries like France or Germany on vital areas like health, jobs, disposable income and productivity. Only very different countries like Romania and South Korea are more divided.
The report outlines:
- The health divide is larger than any comparable country; rates of mortality vary more within the UK than in the majority of developed nations and some places like Blackpool, Manchester and Hull have mortality rates worse than parts of Turkey, Slovakia and Romania
- The jobs divide is larger than any comparable country. Where you live in the UK makes a big difference to opportunities for work, given the job creation rate is far higher in London and the south east than any other part of the UK
- The disposable income divide is larger than any comparable country and has increased over the last 10 years. In Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, disposable income per person is £48,000 higher than in Blackburn with Darwen, Nottingham and Leicester
- The UK’s productivity divide is larger than any comparable country. Parts of London and the South East have an economy among the most productive in the developed world, whereas parts of Northern Ireland, Wales and the North are less productive than parts of Poland, Hungary and Romania
IPPR North stressed “many of these divides have been created and worsened by the fact that in the UK power is more centralised than any comparable country”.
According to IPPR, 95p in every £1 paid in tax is taken by Whitehall; in Germany it is 69p in every £1 raised by central Government. Just 1% of GDP is spent by local government on economic affairs, half as much as is spent locally and regionally in France or Germany.
As a solution, IPPR pointed to the opportunities of devolution, demonstrated by Northern Mayors over recent years, to unlock the potential of people and their communities.
Luke Raikes, report author and senior research fellow at IPPR North, said: “It is no surprise that people across the country feel so disempowered. Both political and economic power are hoarded by a handful of people in London and the south east and this has damaged all parts of the country, from Newcastle to Newham.
“Low investment holds back regions like the North, Midlands and South West, while centralisation has let London’s housing crisis drive up poverty in the capital.
“All our regions’ economies have been held back by centralisation – but they’re interdependent too and we can no longer ignore that. All our regions need devolution to be empowered, and to work together. This must be a top priority for the next government.”
Report author and interim director of IPPR North, Arianna Giovannini said: “Mayors in the North have shown what’s possible, despite the limited amount of devolved power they currently have. Devolution must be the way forward for the country, and all areas need substantial power and funding.
“The next Government must lead a devolution parliament – an unprecedented and irreversible shift of power – so that England’s regions, towns and cities can work together to bridge our regional divides”.
Responding to the State of the North report, Roger Marsh, chairman of the NP11 Board and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “IPPR North is right to emphasise that empowering the North and other regions outside of London to collaborate with pounds and powers through devolution – rather than the current system which encourages competing for resources from the centre – is the most effective way to unleash our collective potential.
“The Manifesto for the North, produced by NP11 and Convention for the North, has set out a roadmap for how this devolution, aligned with investment in transport and skills, will help to address inter-regional inequalities, rebalance the UK economy, and place the North at the front and centre of tackling the climate emergency.”