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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
North-south divide confirmed
National Statistics report confirms north-south divide
"There is a north-south difference in people's health"
The north-south divide in the UK, which the government has been reluctant to acknowledge, has been confirmed by official research.

Statisticians at the National Statistics office have, in a social and economic survey, identified that people in the south are better off than those in the north.

But while London and the south-east of England contribute almost one-third of the UK's economic muscle, their population's main advantage is in health terms, the report says.

The survey, published on Thursday, also identifies a behavioural divide, with Northern Ireland as Britain's most sober region.

Booming Bracknell

London, eastern England and south-eastern counties, stretching from Oxfordshire to Kent, are the only UK regions where economic production exceeds the national average, the report shows.

The strongest regions
London: 130.4
South East: 116.7
East of England: 114.2
Scotland: 95.6
East Midlands: 94.8

(Relative GDP, per head)

The south-east also includes Britain's best-paid employees, with one-in-10 Bracknell Forest men earning more than 59,000 per year, compared with a national average salary of 20,732.

The average annual wage in Northern Ireland is 17,900. In north Yorkshire, one-in-10 men earns less than 10,000 a year, with average earnings for Yorkshire and Humber workers at 18,800.

The report acknowledges regional differences in income, housing costs and unemployment.

Digging deep

But the survey, the latest Regional Trends report, also warns against taking headline data at face value.

... and the weakest
South-West: 91.9
West Midlands: 91.7
North-West: 88.2
Yorks & Humber: 87.8
Wales: 79.4
North-East: 78.8

(Relative GDP, per head)

Although Londoners are the best-paid Britons, earning an average of 27,000 per year, they also have the highest outgoings.

"Household expenditure and housing costs for those living in the south are higher than the national average and house prices continue to rise at a faster rate," says the report.

House prices rose at 17% between 1998-99, compared to 6-7% in the north of England and the East Midlands.

The figures also conceal "considerable variability within regions", the report says. Although 10% of Londoners earn more than 50,000, 10% earned less than 12,600.

Health gap

The north-south health divide is seen in the statistic that 10% more northern and Scottish women than southern females die of heart failure.

"In particular, deaths from circulatory diseases are much higher in the north," says the report.

Glasgow, Halton, Merthyr Tydfil and Blyth Valley are identified as health blackspots.

Levels of alcohol consumption also varied markedly between the north west and the south and east, with Northern Irish people "by far" the most abstemious.

"Almost half of men and three-fifths of women in Northern Ireland had not had an alcoholic drink in the week prior to the interview," the report says.

Factory link

The differing rates of economic activity between north and south reflect the regions' reliance on manufacturing.

More than one quarter of GDP produced by Northern and Midland counties comes from manufacturers.

In the south-east, manufacturers produce 16.2% of GDP, and in London the figure is below 12%.

In schooling, Scotland, where 30.4% of people are qualified to Higher level, has the best-educated population. Fewer than one-in-five Londoners has any A-levels.

The north-east is the safest region to drive in, with most accidents per head of the population in the East Midlands and London.

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See also:

22 Aug 00 | Business
North-south divide 'getting bigger'
21 Aug 00 | Business
The rise and rise of the South
21 Aug 00 | Business
Outlook gloomy for North East
19 Apr 00 | UK Politics
MPs highlight north-south divide
10 Apr 00 | Business
North-south divide 'widens'
06 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Blair's one nation tour
06 Dec 99 | UK Politics
North-south report: Key points
06 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Blair challenges 'regional stereotypes'
06 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Blair questions 'north-south divide'
05 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Blair: North-South divide 'a myth'
13 Aug 99 | The Economy
London calling
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