Regional divides in the UK are among the worst in the developed world, according to a report, which found that parts of England have higher mortality rates than places in Turkey, Romania and Poland.
Research by the thinktank IPPR North found that the UK is more unequal than comparable countries on measures such as health, jobs, disposable income and productivity.
It saidmortality rates– the number of people who die relative to the size and age of the population – were worse in Blackpool, Manchester and Hull than in the Turkish cities of Tunceli, Mardin and Muğla, the Romanian region of Vâlcea, and the cities of Krakow and Wrocław in Poland.
Luke Raikes, a senior research fellow at IPPR North, 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 report, published on Wednesday, stresses that the inequality in Britain is far more complex than a north-south divide or “cities versus towns”, pointing to high levels of poverty in parts of inner-city London as well as the existence of affluent towns and stagnant cities.
It said that by some measures, such as life satisfaction and the homicide rate, the UK was less divided than other developed countries. However the UK is “consistently more divided than any comparable country” when it comes to vital topics such as productivity, income, unemployment, health and politics, the research found.
In terms of productivity, which economists believe is vital for economic growth and raising living standards, the UK is the most regionally divided country of its size and level of development and has not improved for a decade.
The only countries that are more regionally unequal in productivity are very different in other ways, the report said, such as many eastern Europe economies that are far smaller than the UK.
Raikes, who authored the report, said the divide in terms of disposable income hadgrown in the UK in recent years, with an average £ 48, 000 per person gap between those living in the wealthiest areas and those in the most deprived.
On this measure, the UK is more regionally divided than any other country of its size and development – such as Germany, Spain and Italy – and is second only to Israel, a country with the population of London, in terms of inequality of disposable income between richest and poorest.
IPPR North, along with political leaders from across the spectrum in the north of England and in the Midlands, have long called forfurther devolution of powersand funding in order to shrink the UK’s productivity gap and address its regional divides.
IPPR’s annual report State of the North pointed out that the north of England’s economy is larger than the economies of most EU countries yet was being held back by Whitehall and Westminster, describing Britain as “the most centralized country of its size in the developed world ”.
Arianna Giovannini, the interim director of IPPR North, said 2019 had “exposed our country regional divides” and that economic uncertainty had permeated every corner of the UK as the Brexit debate raged in Westminster.
She added: “But 2019 also showed the great promise of devolution. Mayors in the north have shown what’s possible, despite the limited amount of devolved power they currently have.Devolutionmust be the way forward for the country, and all areas need substantial power and funding.
“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.”