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26 July 2022

London is still the big winner in the time of “levelling up”

Public spending has increased by 8 per cent in London over the last three years but by only 1 per cent in the North West.

By Michael Goodier

Public spending has grown much faster in London than other areas of the country despite three years of “levelling up” rhetoric from the government.

Analysis of the most recent three years of government statistics by IPPR North, a think tank, found that while total public spending increased across England, spending in the north of the country was lower and had risen less quickly.

The geographical disparity remained after taking Covid-19 support spending and health spending out of the equation to account for the pandemic. London had the highest spending and highest percentage increase, at £13,442 per person, an increase of 8 per cent since 2018-19. The gap between the north and London grew by 79 per cent, from £1,081 per person to £1,937 per person over the 2018-19 to 2020-21 period.

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.

“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.”

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Not only has the levelling up agenda not affected overall public spending priorities, but the way dedicated funds have been allocated has led to accusations of pork barrel politics, where public money is used to gain electoral advantage.

A New Statesman analysis of 11 different funds linked to levelling up last month found that constituencies with Tory MPs have received significantly more money than other similarly deprived areas. Seats that the Tories gained in 2019 also received more funding than similarly deprived seats held by MPs from different parties.

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