New North South divide opens as large areas of Yorkshire fell into debt during the pandemic

Households across Yorkshire and the North are facing an “avalanche” of debt accrued during the Covid 19 crisis, with a fresh North South divide having opened up in terms of personal finances.

Research from think tank the Centre for Cities shows that people in many Northern towns and cities have been pushed into debt in the past year when trying to meet the cost of essential items due to pandemic job losses, furlough and a lack of savings.

Conversely places in the South of England are more likely to have accrued savings during the pandemic owing to hospitality and travel being restricted under Government regulations.

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As a result, for every £1 that people from less affluent areas saved, people in richer areas saved £12.

The Government has been advised to provide more assistance.
The Government has been advised to provide more assistance.

Hull and Bradford were the worst two impacted cities according to the report, with 56 and 54 per cent respectively of its neighbourhoods classed as being places likely to have taken on debt. The cities were joined by Liverpool, Blackburn and Burnley in the top five most impacted areas.

Meanwhile Exeter, York and Aldershot were all shown to be places where neighbourhoods were likely to have built up savings.

The research, produced in partnership with Clarion Housing Group, also warns that the Government’s roadmap for withdrawing Covid-support will hit people in the North disproportionately hard and, in a blow to the levelling up agenda, risks leaving the UK more divided than ever.

It added that divisions between homeowners and people in social housing are also likely to increase, with social housing residents and people on low incomes far more likely to have fallen into debt during the pandemic.

Debt levels are rising.

Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities’ chief executive, said: “The pandemic has left this country more divided than ever. While people in mostly prosperous southern cities and towns have accumulated £150 billion of savings, many less affluent people in the North and Midlands will face an avalanche of debt as Government support ends later this year.

“The Government is withdrawing financial support far too quickly for people in places that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Not only will this set its levelling up agenda back significantly, it also risks levelling down many previously affluent parts of southern England such as Crawley.”

Mr Carter was referring to pockets of southern England such as areas of London and cities reliant on the aviation sector in which people in both richer and poorer neighbourhoods have seen their financial situation worsen in the last year.

Sue Anderson, Head of Media at debt charity StepChange said: “These findings highlight an ongoing theme of the pandemic - while the economic effects of Covid have resulted in increased savings for some, others are now in a significantly worse off position, particularly those who were struggling before the pandemic.

Andrew Carter - Centre for Cities.

“Much of the burden of this debt has fallen on the most financially vulnerable.”

The Yorkshire Post has approached the Treasury for comment.