FOR all the good achieved by the Northern Powerhouse, a new report suggests that the North of England is effectively being left to ‘wither on the vine’ after being hit harder by austerity than the south.
To counter this, IPPR North in its report has called for a ‘reboot’ of the Northern Powerhouse; a second phase that is led by the North itself, to develop its own industrial strategy, create a ‘whole-North approach’, and boost economic justice to bridge a widening North-south divide.
The North has been hit hard by austerity since 2009/10, according to the thinktank’s ‘state of the North’ report, with total public spending having fallen by £6.3 billion in real terms. This is more than any other region, it notes, while the south east and south west combined has seen its share of public expenditure rise by £3.2 billion in the same period.
Meanwhile, in transport – a notorious sore point for the North’s commuters – the region has received £289 per head, while London has received £708 per head on average.
Furthermore, the IPPR notes that £4,155 of transport spending per capita is planned for the capital, with just £1,600 per capita planned for the North. That is 2.6 times more per capital for London compared to the whole of our region.
The report was seized upon by Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham as an occasion to call for a better deal for the region, and to enable the North to take greater control of its destiny.
“This report once again makes the irrefutable case for greater investment and devolution in the North to be a national priority,” Burnham said. “This Government promised us a Northern Powerhouse and Northern leaders stand ready to work with them to close the North-south divide, which pervades right across public spending, poverty rates and life expectancy.
“But, 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 IPPR’s report further notes:
- Productivity in the North is 12.6% below the national average, although there is some variation and areas like Cheshire and Warrington are especially productive, but many areas have lower productivity than East Germany
- Two million working-age people and one million children live in households below the poverty line in the North; a quarter of northern workers – 1.6 million people – are paid below the real living wage
- Weekly pay has fallen by £21 (3.8%) since 2008 in real terms – more than nationally (3.3%)
- Health is a major problem and many of the neighbourhoods with the lowest life expectancy are found within the North’s city regions – in parts of Salford, Bradford, Sefton and Sunderland – although the neighbourhood with the lowest male life expectancy in England is in Blackpool: 68
“With the powers we have, Greater Manchester is working together across services and agencies to better prevent and address the causes of complex issues such as homelessness, addiction, offending, and ill mental health,” Burnham added.
“We are determined to face tough challenges head on and, with devolution, succeed in changing the lives of our people for the better. We know that devolution is working. It has had a profoundly positive effect on the culture of our city-region. It has created a new energy, a sense of possibility as we take control of our future and do things our way.
“Northern business, political and civic leaders are getting organised and now is the time for the Government to ensure we have the investment and devolution we need to rebalance our economy and transform the North.”