Regional inequalities which blight economic performance and life-chances in the UK may become significantly worse unless drastic action is taken.
That’s the conclusion of a report out today by UK2070 Commission which is chaired by the former head of the British civil service, Lord Bob Kerslake.
The report warns that London is ‘decoupling’ from the rest of the country.
The report also drew comparisons between the scale of the UK’s regional disparities and German reunification in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War.
One in four children live in the most deprived areas, where healthy life expectancy is 19 years lower than the most affluent areas due to economic under-performance and lack of access to opportunity, leading to a growing benefits bill and a £4.8bn annual cost for the NHS brought on by poorer health.
Whilst London and the South East of England confront increasing pressures on living costs and resources as they soak up most of the UK’s job growth and productivity, the report argues that many people and businesses outside of these areas are likely to miss out on the benefits of growth.
More than half of the new jobs will go to London and the South East when it makes up just over a third of the population.
Tackling the north-south divide could help to heal tensions exacerbated by Brexit and restore trust in politicians, according to Lord Kerslake who said:
“The UK’s regional inequalities are well-known and there have been many well-intentioned efforts to address them.
“Despite these initiatives, these inequalities are widening, and our inquiry suggests that most policy responses have been like pea-shooters or sticking plasters – too small, short-lived or disjointed to have a lasting impact.