Report Shows 10 Out Of The 12 Poorest Cities In UK Are In The North

Experts Say Figures Show Northern Powerhouse Initiative Still Struggling For Traction


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

New figures have revealed that 10 of the UK’s 12 towns and cities in greatest economic decline are located in the North of England, prompting warnings from experts at Irwin Mitchell that more needs to be done for the Government’s economic wealth-spreading initiative to succeed.

The report, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), claimed that Rochdale, Burnley, Bolton, Blackburn and Hull were at the top of the list of places caught in a downward spiral of low employment and population growth.

None of the 24 towns listed were situated in the South of England.

The findings have put George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse scheme, announced in 2014 to bridge the North-South divide, into question.

The initiative looked to devolve power to local authorities and create metro mayors for big city areas such as Greater Manchester.

The study, ‘Uneven growth: tackling city decline’, examined the economics and local labour markets of 74 British towns with populations over 100,000, and focused on employment rates, numbers of highly qualified workers and migration rates.

The report said that full-time job creation in the 12 worst-performing cities fell by 2.1 per cent, compared with the national average of growth of 1.9%, and 5.4% in the top 12 best-performing cities.

Three types of city in decline were identified within the report: “core”, such as Liverpool, “overshadowed”, such as Rochdale, both of which are most likely to benefit from a metro mayor, and “freestanding” such as Grimsby and Blackpool.

According to the researchers , the “freestanding” areas faced the greatest risk as they had yet to benefit from any Northern Powerhouse initiative.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman, said: “The Northern Powerhouse will transform our great Northern cities and rebalance the economy, having already helped create record employment rates and getting more than 440,000 people into work since 2010.

“We have secured a host of devolution deals, and invested in transport, science and the arts across the region, backed by more than £4bn of new funding from central Government. We want to harness the North’s massive potential to drive the UK’s economy, and its prospects make it a lucrative place to invest and live."

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Expert Opinion
Our latest UK Powerhouse report revealed similar findings in relation to the growth of some northern cities and although our research looked at some of the largest cities in the so-called Northern Powerhouse, it still revealed that the economic gap between London and the rest of the UK was set to widen over the next decade. Our UK Powerhouse Tracker showed that in the third quarter, London’s economy expanded by 3.1% compared to places like Middlesbrough which grew at 1.3% and Sheffield, which experienced 1.6% growth in its GVA.

The Government must recognise that much more needs to be done to help rebalance the UK’s economy. The devolution of central powers to local authorities is important, but without meaningful investment in infrastructure and transport, very little will be achieved.

Irwin Mitchell’s report with Cebr last year highlighted a number of additional policy considerations including greater involvement of businesses in education, more enterprise hubs around universities and the devolution of Air Passenger Duty in England. Unless there is a radical rethink, the Northern Powerhouse will struggle to gain traction.
Niall Baker, CEO & Partner