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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 July, 2003, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Is regional inequality getting worse?
A group of MPs has warned that divide between the richest and poorest areas of England is getting worse.

The report by the ODPM: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions committee says the economies of six regions will suffer unless funding and policies to improve prosperity are put in place.

The MPs say the worst national poverty, joblessness and bad health are to be found in parts of the north, midlands and south-west of England.

What action should be taken to reduce the divide between rich and poor regions?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

It is much more complicated than the planners make out
Roland Brade, Herne Bay, England
I moved to Herne Bay from Camberley just over a year ago. This part of the South East should also be added to the poor areas. Of course we are all speaking generally, it is much more complicated than the planners make out.
Roland Brade, Herne Bay, England

The 'North' is already getting much more money per head than the 'South'. Wherever you live there are poorer people and richer people. Equality ends the day you are born and begins again the day you die. The unfair bit in between is called 'life'. It is short so why waste it worrying about what others earn?
R.C. Robjohn, UK

I've lived in both the North and the South (as well as a few other countries. I'm now back and settled in Cumbria. I've got a house I couldn't possibly dream of owning in the South and a quality of life (in my opinion) vastly superior. It takes me 8 minutes to drive to work on a country road, heavy traffic is being stuck behind a tractor for a couple of minutes. I've got a salary which would be peanuts in London. Do I care? I know where I'm staying!
Mark, England

Why does everyone in this country think the government has to fix everything?
Wendy, UK
Stop this infernal whingeing. If you don't like prices in the South then move North. If you don't like the low pay and lack of shops and theatres in the North move South. Why does everyone in this country think the government has to fix everything? If you are an adult you have a choice, stop expecting everyone else to make you happy, do it yourself!
Wendy, UK

London is third in having the most deprived Wards. No divide there.
Rich, London

I'll never move back North, it's just too inconvenient.
Chris McGeachin, Warsaw, Poland (ex UK)
I blame the M6! I'm originally from Merseyside. I left to go to university in the South in 1985 and have never lived back in the Northwest since. My visits back to the region grow ever more infrequent, even before I moved to Poland. The reason? The M6/M5 interchange in Birmingham makes access to the region frustrating beyond belief. Sad to say, I'll never move back North, it's just too inconvenient.
Chris McGeachin, Warsaw, Poland (ex UK)

If you only look at salaries, housing and other financial measures then the South looks better off than the North. However when you add the lack of huge traffic jams, countryside within easy reach, cities where people talk to you, no congestion charges etc, then the picture changes. Many southerners obviously want to get away from the south; look at the number of holiday homes that they buy all over the UK. I don't see too many northerners hankering after a life in London. You need to look at all aspects of the so-called split; it's not as bad as is made out.
John Smith, UK

Not so grim up here anymore it seems
Steve B, Scotland
Those poor southerners have an even worse life than ever with all the traffic, the crazy house prices, the cost of living and the crime rates in London. No wonder so many of them are moving north. Not so grim up here anymore, it seems.
Steve B, Scotland

Part of the problem is that London has been considered the centre of the Universe for so long. Another problem is that the taxation for everyone has been set so high that businesses do not want to locate in the UK, instead choosing to go elsewhere and employ people there.
Doug, UK

The current level of inequality... is incredibly inefficient for the UK as a whole
Mark Dunlop, Scotland
The current level of inequality across the UK and focus on business and government in Greater London is not only bad for those living in the poorer regions and nations of the UK but is incredibly inefficient for UK as a whole. Having millions of people living with the horrendous congestion and pollution levels that exist around greater London wastes a massive amount of time and money each working day. Surely distributing the load away from this area would not only improve the standard of living elsewhere but significantly improve the UK's effectiveness and efficiency as a whole.
Mark Dunlop, Scotland

If it's so grim up North, why are the big London stores clamouring to open in the North? Manchester can boast not 1 but 2 Selfridges' stores with Harvey Nicholls spending millions on a new store due to open next month. Grim up North? Don't believe all that you hear because you will be in for a shock!!!!!
Mike, UK

The seat of Government and the financial resources it generates e.g. the Bank of England draw other institutions around it. This knocks on to other national events being brought into the London area for the convenience of the wealth creating sector. Classic examples are the Royal Opera House, Wembley stadium, and the West end theatres. If these institutions were to move to the Midlands, the wealth would move with them. Government could also move many of it's departments to elsewhere in the country. In this century communication is easy and rapid, the location of a department is therefore irrelevant to the core functions of Government. If these moves occurred there would be greater prosperity in the areas without the need for extra funding. The only costs would be the one off costs of relocating buildings and core staff.
Roy Richards, UK

Where I agree that more should be done to reduce the 'north-south divide', I disagree that should be achieved by removing jobs from London and distributing them to the regions. The people of the North, Scotland and Wales already benefit from lower costs of living, higher quality public services and subsidies from the European Union Regional Development Fund.
Jon, UK

When the north east lost much of its heavy industry it lost its heart
Katherine, UK
I grew up in Middlesbrough and now live in London and there is no comparison. Even taking into consideration the higher cost of living and higher housing costs, London is far, far wealthier. When the north east lost much of its heavy industry it lost its heart, and cheap call centres are no replacement. The men especially have not adapted and have not been shown how to adapt.
Katherine, UK

If job centres were co-ordinated and applicants were made aware of jobs in all parts of the UK there would be more chance for people in all areas. Surely not beyond the wit of a computerised country?
jean Bentley, Scotland

How about this for a divide, I work in London on a fairly good salary for my age yet I can not afford to buy a one bedroom flat. Yet friends of mine who live and work in Leeds and earn far less than me are taking out mortgages for 3 bedroom houses. I think the divide is not as bad as people make out.
Simon, UK

Regional inequality is indeed in evidence. Higher housing costs as well as the cost of living afflict us all in the South. To add insult to injury, London in particular subsidises the rest of the country to the tune of 10-20 billion pounds per year according to last night's BBC news. This figure is growing and so of course inequality is getting worse. Why do I continue to live in the South? Because I was born and raised in London. I must be one of the few.

If there were more investment in a decent transport infrastructure as well as good job opportunities in the North, perhaps there would not be the annual influx of people to London, all seeking work, housing and further clogging up London transport.
Tom, UK

We'll keep the great North West secret to ourselves
C Smith, UK
As a new northern resident - having recently relocated through my husbands work to Lytham - I would like to say it's great. Our work is close to home and no traffic jams, everywhere caters for children, the locals are welcoming and friendly, there's plenty of work and play! You couldn't drag us back south. But maybe we shouldn't shout too loud or all you southerners will come and join us! So we'll keep the great North West secret to ourselves.
C.Smith, UK

As an exiled Northerner living in the South, it does concern me that the deprived regions are in downward spiral. What is needed is something (or things) to stop skilled jobs and therefore skilled people being sucked into the South East. Stopping all development on greenfield sites in the overheated regions could help. Vodafone bullied Newbury council into allowing them to build on a large greenfield site with the threat of large job losses. Yet employers in Newbury can't recruit because employment rates are so low. Newbury council should have called Vodafone's bluff and seen them move to deprived area of the country and taken all those high tech jobs (which Vodafone are cutting anyway) elsewhere.
John, UK

The answer is simple. There is a divide and always will be a divide because everybody says there is a divide. London is the biggest problem in that it has become deBritainized in such as it is far removed from having any touch of reality with the rest of Britain. It is a city packed to the limits waiting to explode due to so much ethnic and cultural diversity that it does not know how to interact with the rest of Britain.
Mike, London

Devolved regional authorities in the North would be a huge boost to this whole process
Dan, Inverness, UK
England suffers from having a huge capital city of international stature and importance followed by a string of comparatively small cities barely heard of beyond close European neighbours and worldwide football fans. In addition, Northern England has to shed its 'victim' mentality the way Scotland has in order to make itself more worldly and appealing to outside interest and investment. Devolved regional authorities in the North would be a huge boost to this whole process.
Dan, Inverness, UK

The problem is a vicious circle. People move to the South for work (me included). Companies settle in the South because there are plenty of people. Perhaps locating some of the 'government institutions' out of London might help to seed 'migration'. On the plus side - I recently moved from the South East back north and traded my 2 bed end of terrace for a large 4 bed detached!
Craig, UK

How about the Government leading by example and moving all but the absolutely essential government HQ business to the North?
Neil Williams, UK

I don't understand where these conclusions come from. I have just spent some weeks in the Midlands and Northumbria and the both areas seemed dynamic with noticeably lower costs. I would say it is about 10% cheaper to live outside the South East.
Keith, England

Central government should stop pandering to developers who want to concrete over swathes of SE England. Instead, let SE residents make their own decisions on planning, which will force development to occur where people actually want it, in less crowded and less wealthy parts of the realm.
Neil, South-East England

Housing is far more expensive in the South, yet people still start paying 40% tax at the same income level. To afford a modest 3 bedroom semi in the south east you need to earn a salary which would buy you a huge 5 bedroom house up north. So let's not get carried away about this divide, it cuts both ways.
Jon Cooper, UK

I see evidence of a local divide here in Oxford
Colin Bartlett, UK
Don't know about the national divide. I see evidence of a local divide here in Oxford. The amount of homeless are on the increase. The pay levels are such that only a minority can afford to live and work in Oxford the majority have to commute from further away. Areas such as Swindon/Northampton so travel costs eat into earnings. The high tech companies are closing every day, and many small business places who have been in Oxford City for decades are moving to cheaper areas (out of town). Is there a solution?. If wages are increased then more cuts are needed to pay for them. So it's a no win situation.
Colin Bartlett, Oxford UK

Effort should be made to equalise the employment opportunities around the country. I think government departments need not be in London and could be relocated to where jobs are needed. An effective financial structure is needed to encourage businesses to do the same. Perhaps lower corporate taxes for selected areas.
Malcolm Scott, UK

In the South West, the main problem is Londoners buying second homes. This distorts house prices, and effectively prices out locals from owning their own home, and thanks to the Tories, social rented housing is a thing of the past. If that could be resolved, life here may not be richer financially, but a lot richer in many other aspects.
John C, Bath, England

Redistribution of resources to the northern and western regions needs to be coupled with much tighter planning restrictions in the South East if the imbalance is to be corrected. Recent high profile decisions have not taken this onboard. One of the worst examples of this is the relocation of Rolls Royce from Derby, where accommodation is relatively plentiful, and there is a long and proud history of a skilled workforce to an outstandingly beautiful area of Sussex. The latter has both a severe housing shortage and lack of skilled labour in an overheated employment market. For me, that was the litmus test of how serious the Government is on regional development and sustainable planning. Allowing the development was a dismal failure of strategic thinking.
Dr Paul K Hatchwell, UK

Tax penalties and tax breaks should be used to encourage major employers away from London and the South East. For example lower employer NI contributions would help. It would bring some prosperity and job opportunity to the regions, and restore some sanity to the South East's housing market. Government departments should be the first to set an example.
Peter, UK

The gulf between the wealthiest and poorest people in Britain is increasing at an ever-greater rate
Paul B, UK
I don't believe the difference is one based solely on region. There are wealthy people in "the north"; just as much as there are poor people in "the south". There is a marked difference in the day to day cost of living between the most expensive and cheapest regions, a variance that is surely far greater than the difference in pay levels (evidenced by the difficulties faced by many public sector workers in London, for example). Nevertheless, leaving regions aside, I do believe that the gulf between the wealthiest and poorest people in Britain is increasing at an ever-greater rate. The "pie" continues to grow, so I can only presume the portions are getting more and more distorted. I think there is a strong case for pay differentials across the country, to the benefit of people in the same work sector, not to their disadvantage. I think the unions are wrong to cling to national pay rates, come what may.
Paul B, UK

The debate over the new run-way at Heathrow, or further development at Luton or Stansted airports, is just the latest example of why regional inequality is getting worse. There have been firm proposals for the development of a 2bn intercontinental airport at Sevenside in South Wales, but these have been quickly mooted by the government. It does not make sense. There is an obvious need to increase air-traffic over the next 20 years, but the government seem reluctant to do so, with any significance anywhere other than London. A first intercontinental airport for Wales would not only add thousands of new jobs directly to Wales (and the South West), but also the improved transport links would encourage more companies to set up within the area. This would obviously have subsequent, positive knock-on effects.
Chris Gough, Wales

Stop building roads and houses in the south-east and economic pressures will force people and businesses north. Let the markets sort it out - subsidies are a waste of time.
Frank church, UK

Here we go again! A group of MP's "warning" us! It's all good and well them warning us. What can we do about it? It's about time we had a "proper" government who can deal with these matters in hand before it becomes out of control.
Helen Moore, Newport, S Wales




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