War of words over think tank’s ‘levelling up’ report

London Councils has dismissed a think tank report which claims public spending is ‘skewed’ towards the capital as ‘simplistic and misleading’.

The report by Onward makes a number of claims regarding the variations in public spending between various regions and urges the chancellor to use this week’s Budget to address some of these issues.

It claims spending on affordable housing is five times higher per head in the capital – £650 per head compared to £120 per head in the rest of England.

The report also claims the Housing Infrastructure Fund is similarly weighted towards the South East. An analysis by the think tank claims the fund has spent £115 per head in the East of England, £97 in London, £95 in the South East, and £79 in the South West, compared to £10 in the West Midlands and just £4 in Yorkshire.

In addition, the report argues capital spending on transport in London was around £6,600 per head between 2007/8 and 2018/19, which was more than three times higher than in the East Midlands (£1,880) or South West (£1,980) and nearly three (2.75) times the average in the rest of England (£2,400).

One of the report’s co-authors, Conservative MP Neil O’Brien said it is ‘no wonder some parts of the country feel short-changed’.

‘For decades we have piled fertilizer on the parts of our economy that are already flourishing while refusing to water the seeds of growth elsewhere,’ added Mr O’Brien.

‘The PM’s mission to level up poorer parts of the country is vital.  To change trends that have gone in the wrong direction for decades will need not a few tweaks, but taking a bazooka to the problem. That means we have to use every tool at our disposal, starting by rebalancing the types of spending that do most for growth towards poorer areas.’

But the report drew a swift response from the chair of the London Councils group, Cllr Peter John who warned against a ‘crude “level London down” agenda’.

‘This report fails to acknowledge London’s growing challenges in tackling homelessness and poverty. We’re facing the most severe homelessness crisis in the country – accounting for two-thirds of all homelessness in England – and London also has the highest rates of relative poverty,’ said Cllr John.

‘It’s simplistic and misleading to portray London as a city of abundant wealth when it’s home to so much deprivation.

‘We want to see levelling up within regions as well as between them. It’s crucial to reduce inequality and promote prosperity everywhere – and making Londoners poorer does nothing to achieve this.’

The Onward report – Levelling Up – is available to read here.

Photo Credit – Free-Photos (Pixabay)


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