0215 GMT January 23, 2021
Andy Burnham, Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, called on ministers to place northern England at “the front of the queue for public investment” after the north-south divide was highlighted in a report on Wednesday, theguardian.com reported.
The study, by the think tank IPPR North, found that the north of England continued to see bigger cuts in public spending than any other region.
Spending per head in London has increased by twice as much as spending in the north – £326 per head in London, compared with just £146 per head in the north – since the launch of George Osborne’s “northern powerhouse” initiative in 2014, the report found.
Burnham said, “Almost five years after the government promised us a northern powerhouse, we learn that public spending in the north has fallen while rising in the south. This has got to stop and it is time that the north came to the front of the queue for public investment.”
The report warned that, despite some progress, the government’s northern powerhouse initiative had not moved beyond its original focus on increased productivity and transport investment.
The think tank said the next phase of the project must be led by political leaders in the north instead of officials in Whitehall.
Luke Raikes, the report’s author and a senior research fellow at IPPR North, said, “The government is so consumed by Westminster’s Brexit chaos that it has deprioritized the northern powerhouse agenda at the very time it is needed most. This cannot continue.
“All our regional economies face severe challenges – including London’s. Brexit threatens to make this much worse and the northern powerhouse agenda is the best chance we have of fixing this national economic crisis. In the national interest, the north needs to thrive.”
The report noted some progress in the north, including advanced manufacturing, energy and health innovation. Productivity in these sectors is forecast to grow by 38 percent by 2030, according to IPPR North.
But more investment in other areas, such as education, skills and health, is needed to transform lives in the north, it added.
As many as two million adults and one million children live in poverty in the north, the report said. Weekly pay has fallen by £21 in the north since 2008, more than the national fall in pay, and half a million people work in accommodation and food services jobs where weekly pay is half the national average.
Northern neighborhoods have the lowest life expectancies in England, the report found. In one neighborhood in Blackpool the average male life expectancy at birth is 68, which is well below the English average of 79.
Sarah Longlands, the director of IPPR North, said the north had started to see some benefits of the northern powerhouse project, but added, “Too many of the north’s people and places are yet to feel the benefits. One million northern children live in poverty. Many families depend upon precarious and poorly paid jobs and levels of healthy life expectancy in many areas constrain the opportunities of people to play an active role in their local economy.”
A government spokesperson said, “The north is thriving, with a record number of people in work and over 200,000 more businesses today than in 2010.
“Never before has it had such a powerful local voice, following the election of four new metro mayors, and a fifth on the way, who we have empowered to champion their communities and build on this success.
“We are also backing the whole of the northern powerhouse with £3.4 billion to boost local economic growth and a record £13 billion in transport improvements, meaning almost £250 per person – more than any other region – will be invested next year to help commuters and motorists across the north.”