IPPR - North ‘£6 billion a year underfunded compared to London’, investigation finds

25 Jul 2017 09:15 AM

Shock figures reveal the North of England would have seen £59 billion more over the last decade, if it had received the same per person for infrastructure as London, an independent think-tank analysis finds.

IPPR North analysis shows that if the North had received the UK average spending per head each year for the past ten years, it would have received £10 billion more, and if it had received the same per head as London, it would have received £59 billion more.

The news comes following a string of London-centric announcements from the government:

The investigation into a decade of government ONS data, conducted by researchers at IPPR North, uncovers a ‘scandal’ of chronic government under-investment in the UK’s regions.

For context, £59 billion over this ten years would have been enough to fill a billion potholes or develop a new high-speed east-west crossing, IPPR North say.

On today's infrastructure it is quicker to travel from London to Paris, in around 2 hours and 23 minutes by Eurostar, than east-west from Liverpool to Hull, which takes around 3 hours and 20 minutes.

The think-tank slams the economic model of successive governments, which has prioritised the use of infrastructure spending to prop up the City of London, rather than underpinning other vital sectors such as the North's advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and green energy sectors.

IPPR North says this regional imbalance fuelled the Brexit vote, and a sense that the rest of the UK is left-behind the capital's success.

Considering the findings, IPPR North issued a landmark challenge to all parties to put their money where their mouth is and commit fresh billions to rebalancing the UK economy in light of the Brexit vote.

Researchers also urge the business secretary Greg Clark to put regional government in England at the heart of its modern industrial strategy, as part of a federal UK.

The news comes as the government u-turned on its promised electrification of key transport lines in the Midlands, the North and Wales, and as Mayor Sadiq Khan defended London getting more transport money than the rest of the country put together.

The investigation finds:

To address the issue, IPPR North calls for northern businesses to make the case for ‘HS3’ in the same way in which London businesses have lobbied for the capital’s cash: it's not a question of either London or the North, but a matter of modernising Britain's outdated centralised approach to public funding.

It adds public investment is critical in attracting additional private business cash too to unlock schemes, as London has with Crossrail.

IPPR North also suggests that HM Treasury and the Department for Transport ensure Transport for the North is "souped-up" with TfL-style powers to undertake sensible borrowing for long-term infrastructure projects which would finance themselves over time.

Luke Raikes, IPPR North senior research fellow, called for a 'New North' in a new federal UK post-Brexit. He said:

“This is a national scandal.

“In most other advanced countries, decisions about transport investment are made locally or regionally, where people really in the know about local problems decide exactly what’s needed.

“But in Britain, our Whitehall-knows-best attitude leads to the capital being the government’s default option for more funding.

“Devolving funding for regional infrastructure would help fix Britain’s broken economy by closing the regional productivity gap and helping the country to catch up with our competitors overseas.

“If we are ever going to have an economy that works for everyone, we need a federal UK and regional government with teeth, such as a Council of the North, working with a souped-up Transport for the North, businesses and residents. 

"That means doing what Whitehall has failed to do for decades, and invest in transport so the whole country can benefit from the realised potential of a New North: northern prosperity is national prosperity.”

What could we have done with £59 billion?


Ash Singleton, a.singleton@ippr.org, 07887 422 789.


IPPR North is the progressive think-tank for the North of England, developing bold ideas for a stronger economy and great public services to really take back control in the North.


To calculate the figures, IPPR North researchers analysed the Office for National Statistics ‘Country and regional public sector finances expenditure' tables, which present historic transport spending by region. Spending was divided by population and then the spending per head for London or the UK respectively were used to show what would have been spent in total in other regions if it were spent on the same basis. 

For more information on the investigation's methodology please contact Luke Raikes on l.raikes@ippr.org