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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
North-south split 'getting wider'
Key elements in the growing divide between North and South.

The poor are getting poorer while the north-south divide is getting wider, researchers have claimed.

People living in the south are likely to be better educated and earn more money than their northern counterparts, a Sheffield University study suggests.

Southerners will also have more doctors and dentists to treat them - but are less likely to be ill.

The researchers used census data from 1991 and 2001 to compile an atlas of 500 maps tracking population trends.

Combining this data with surveys designed to measure poverty, they found that overall more households in the UK were poorer (up from 21% to 24%).

The largely London-based financial sector had created more than 1.7m jobs in the 10-year period, fuelling the divide.

The divide is between the South East and the rest of the country
Mark E, "South" England

Skilled trade workers, based almost exclusively in the North, suffered the biggest decline of any sector over the same period - with a 500,000 drop in the workforce.

'Divided kingdom'

The North was defined as Wales and all counties north of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire.

Most northern major cities experienced a drop in population - Manchester declining by 10%, Liverpool by 8% and Birmingham by 3%.

But London's graduate population jumped from 16% in 1991 to 20% in 2001.

Hart in Hampshire and South Buckinghamshire are the two richest boroughs
Hackney and Tower Hamlets, both in London, are the poorest
Poverty in Hackney has increased by 9%
Glasgow has the highest poverty rate outside London - 41%
Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil have the lowest concentration of dentists - 1 in 9,370
Corby in Northants has the highest concentration of unskilled workers - 9.8%
Richmond upon Thames has the lowest - 2.5%

Co-author of the report, Professor Daniel Dorling, concluded that the country was being "split in half".

He said: "To the south is the metropolis of Greater London, to the north and west is the 'archipelago of the provinces' - city islands that appear to be slowly sinking demographically, socially and economically.

"On the maps shown here, the UK is looking more and more like a city-state. It is a kingdom united only by history, increasingly divided by its geography."

The government has been trying to attract businesses to the North and several cities have undergone regeneration projects.

Yvette Cooper, minister for regeneration and social exclusion, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The divide used to be characterised by high unemployment rates and by economic decline in a lot of the northern regions.

"That's changed and it's changed already because we're seeing now economic growth taking place in every region.

"You're also seeing unemployment falling faster in the most deprived districts than in the national average, so we are seeing improvements taking place.

The number of households in poverty rose from 21% in 1991 to 24% in 2001
The poverty measure used is the Breadline Britain measure
This defines a household as poor if the majority of people in Britain, at the time of calculation, would think that household to be poor
This means that as overall living standards rise, poverty can also rise if society becomes more unequal
"And I certainly don't think we should see the divide as inevitable, quite the reverse, we should be doing something about it, as [Deputy Prime Minister] John Prescott has set out."

But Professor Dorling, speaking on the same programme, said there was no indication the pattern was changing.

He said: "It's a long and slow and steady trend and has many reasons behind it. The population of Britain has been moving southwards for over 100 years.

"There's only been a few years in the last century when on average the population hasn't moved southwards.

"So we should expect this divide to widen over the next 10 or 20 years, unless something dramatic was to happen."

There were pockets of affluence in the North, such as parts of Leeds and Manchester, which "governed" those regions, he said.

London has large chunks of poverty, including the UK's poorest boroughs - Hackney and Tower Hamlets, which have become almost 10% poorer since 1991.

The wealthiest boroughs in 1991 - Hart in Hampshire and South Buckinghamshire - remained the richest in 2001.

The BBC's James Westhead
"The capital is simply booming"

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