In Depth

Divided Britain: health and income gap larger than any other wealthy country

Some of the UK regions are worse off than Turkey, Romania and Poland

Britain’s regional differences are greater than those of any developed country in the world, a study has found.

Research by the IPPR North think-tank found that parts of the north of England have higher mortality rates than areas of Turkey, Romania and Poland.

What did the report find?

The UK was found to be more unequal than comparable countries when it comes to health, jobs, productivity and disposable income.

In wealthier parts of London, disposable income was shown to be £48,000 higher per person than in areas of the north, says The Times.

Luke Raikes, author of the report, 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.”

The UK was found to be the most regionally divided country of its level of development for productivity, and has not improved for a decade.

How does Britain compare?

Mortality rates in Blackpool, Manchester and Hull were found to be worse than those in the Turkish cities of Tunceli, Mardin and Mugla, the Romanian region of Valcea, and the cities of Krakow and Wroclaw in Poland, says The Guardian.

For productivity, the only countries more regionally unequal than the UK are predominantly eastern European economies that are far smaller.

On disposable income, the UK was found to be the most regionally divided of any country of its size and wealth.

What causes the regional divide?

The IPPR says that while the north of England has an economy larger than that of most EU countries, it is held back by Whitehall. The think-tank describes Britain as “the most centralised country of its size in the developed world”.

The report says that that 95p in every £1 paid in tax goes straight to Whitehall, compared with 69p in Germany.

And the lack of money raised locally could be part of the problem – local government spending on economic affairs is just half of what is spent regionally in France and Germany.

The interim director of IPPR North, Arianna Giovannini, said 2019 had “exposed our country’s regional divides” and that economic uncertainty over Brexit had spread to every corner of the UK.

“Devolution must be the way forward for the country, and all areas need substantial power and funding,” said Giovannini. “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.”

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