Public spending is lower in the North than in the rest of England despite Government ‘levelling up’ agenda

Public spending in the North has fallen behind the England average despite the Government’s flagship ‘levelling up’ policy

Public spending in the North of England is lower than in the rest of the country, according to new analysis published by leading think tank IPPR North.

This contradicts what Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed to the country three years ago in his ‘levelling up’ agenda, in which he promised to “unleash the productive power… of every corner of England” - not just in London and the South-East.

Although under Mr Johnson’s premiership public spending did increase in every region of the country, IPPR North’s research reveals that the North has fallen behind and now receives less per person in public spending.

Public spending is lower in the North than in the rest of England, new analysis reveals

Ryan Swift, a research fellow at IPPR North, said: “Our analysis suggests that levelling up was, in many ways, business as usual. But that has to change.”

He told NationalWorld: “I think a lot of people from these regions who voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 will be feeling disappointed and let down.

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“People want to see the reality matching the rhetoric. The Government needs to start delivering financially and making life better for people.”

‘Power is not distributed fairly in this country’

Marcus Johns, who is also a research fellow at the leading think tank, said in a statement: “On public spending, the money simply didn’t follow the levelling up rhetoric.

“Although an increase in public spending in 2019 was welcome and absolutely essential, spending is lower, and grew slower in the North, than in other parts of the country.”

He continued: “The country became more centralised and inequalities widened. This is because power is not distributed fairly in this country.

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“Regions like the North deserve nothing less than to be afforded the tools they need to level up for themselves – it’s a sensible way of governing, and very normal in less unequal countries. But here, that hasn’t yet happened at anywhere near the level needed.”

How much is being spent in the North

In 2021, which is the latest data available, total public spending on the North was £16,223 per person.

This represents a 17% increase since 2019, but is lower than the nationwide average of £16,309.

London saw the highest public spending, at £19,231 per person, which represents a 25% rise since 2019.

This also means that the spending gap between the North and the country’s capital doubled over the two-year period, increasing from a difference of £1,513 per person to a difference of £3,008 per person.

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The region which received the lowest public spending was Yorkshire and Humber, at £15,540 per person, and the lowest percentage growth was in the North East, which saw a 16% increase.

Mr Swift told NationalWorld that this spending disparity between regions impacts a range of services, particularly transport and research development, and also affects the everyday lives of real people, most notably in terms of education and health outcomes.

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Earlier this year, a NationalWorld investigation found that billions of pounds had been cut from councils in England - which at the time IPPR said disproportionately affected local government in the North.

With regard to IPPR’s new analysis on public expenditure, when researchers removed spending on Covid support from the picture, the figures told a similar story.

The North received £11,505 per person on public spending, while London saw £13,442 per person.

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The nationwide average was £11,524 per person, which represented an increase of 3% since 2019.

With Covid support spending excluded, the gap between the North and London reportedly grew by close to 80% - from a difference of £1,081 per person to a disparity of £1,937.

Once again, the region which received the lowest spending per person was Yorkshire and Humber (£11,049 per person), while the lowest increase in this scenario was seen by the North West (1%).

‘The next Prime Minister will have to go much further’

IPPR North has said it is crucial that the country’s next prime minister, whoever that may be, addresses the country’s widening divides and invests in the future of the North.

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Mr Johns said: “Candidates to be the next Prime Minister should commit to delivering where their predecessors have not.

“Reversing cuts to local government and to planned transport projects, beefing up the Levelling Up Bill to make it a transformative piece of legislation, and going big on opportunity and future proofing the economy”.

Mr Swift continued: “The next Prime Minister will enter Downing Street as a result of votes lent to their party, by many in the North and the Midlands, in 2019. The Government has not yet delivered for people in these communities, so the next Prime Minister will have to go much further to unlock northern prosperity.

“If candidates hope to serve for longer than their recent predecessors, they should listen to the North, and make unlocking the region’s significant potential their personal priority”.