Report highlights widening north-south divide

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NORTH West towns and cities have failed to keep pace with the south of England over the last decade, research has showed, which highlight the ‘north south divide’ in the economy.

Four towns in this region, Burnley, Wigam. Blackpool and Rochdale are highlighted as among 10 worst performing in the country for job creation. Tellingly, the is not a single representative from this region in the top 10.

The annual Cities Outlook report from think-tank Centre for Cities, which studies the economic performance of the United Kingdom’s 64 largest cities, shows the gap between Britain’s best and worst-performing cities has dramatically widened since 2004.

Its starkest finding was that for every 12 net new jobs created between 2004 and 2013 in cities in the south, only one was created in cities throughout the rest of Great Britain.

Andrew Carter, acting chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Five months out from the election, this report makes the strongest economic case yet for the next Government to step up to the challenge of investing in the long-term success of our cities, and build a brighter future in which more people and places can contribute to, and share in, prosperity and growth.

“Cities need long-term funding and strategic planning, and policies that go to the heart of addressing the key drivers of economic growth – including transport, planning, skills and housing. This report throws down the gauntlet for all parties to turn their recent interest and pledges around cities and devolution into a clear plan to grow jobs and businesses, and improve quality of life throughout the United Kingdom.”

Mr Carter added: “The stark picture the report paints of the enormous gap in the fortunes of UK cities over 10 years underlines why a ‘steady as she goes’ approach must be scrapped. We must move from thinking that bundling up new funding streams with bureaucratic delays, or simply tinkering around the edges with well-intentioned announcements, will be enough to reverse trends that are becoming increasingly entrenched.”

In the last year the government launched its Northern Powerhouse initiative and has also promised to fuel growth in the regions by granting an element of city region devolution and pledging infrastructure growth.

One of the towns highlighted as a poor performer, Rochdale, said Centre for Cities was “wholly misleading”, and had in particular failed to acknowledge the strides made in the last two years to improve economic performance.

Cllr Richard Farnell, leader of the council said: “The picture of Rochdale painted by the bare numbers in this report is not one that we in the town recognise.

“Over the last two years Rochdale has received unprecedented levels of public investment in major infrastructure projects such as Metrolink, a new transport interchange and our flagship customer services centre, council building and library Number One Riverside which is officially the best public building in the UK. Private investment has followed and far from being in decline Rochdale is on the rise.”