London receives £400 per head more on transport than the north, data shows

The IPPR North has reaffirmed the need for more powers to be devolved to bodies like Transport for the North after the latest statistics are said to “lay bare the regional imbalance” in the UK economy.

After analysing the Office for National Statistics ‘Country and regional public sector finances’ data published today (1 August) the leading think-tank for the north of England found that over the last year (2015/16 - 2016/17), transport spending in London increased by 11.4% but fell by 3.6% in the north of England.

This means that the north received £289 per head on transport, while London received £708 per head on average over the last ten years. According to the IPPR North, if northern regions had received the same amount per head public spending on transport as London for the last ten years, it would have had an investment of £63bn more which equates to an average of £6bn more each year since 2007/08.

Previous analysis conducted at the start of the year by the think claimed that disparity in transport spending would continue to hold back the north and the country as a whole with the government said to be investing £4,155 per person on transport in London, compared to just £1,600 in the north - a gap of £2,555 per person.

Chart showing the spend on transport in the north, versus the spend that it would have received if it had received the same spending per capita as London. 

With rail passengers suffering heavily in recent months, including in the north, researchers now say the time is right for more powers to be devolved to mayors in the north and to bodies like Transport for the North so regions can begin to invest and borrow for its own infrastructure, rather than relying on central government. 

Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North, said the findings “lay bare the regional imbalance in our economy” and showed how much “public investment has gone into London over the years which has supported London’s growth”.

“They also show that London and the South East have paid more tax than the other regions, which is partly due to all UK taxpayers spending decades paying for its infrastructure,” Raines added. “But instead of simplistic arguments over which region ‘subsidises’ the other, we must learn the lesson that public investment can support regional growth, and apply that lesson to all of our regions, not just the capital.  So if we want to rebalance our economy, and have thriving regions outside of London, real power must be devolved to bodies like Transport for the North and real tax and spend powers to the North’s mayors, and a devolution framework that works for all areas.”

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