Levelling up 'in doubt' as Yorkshire wage rises since 2019 lag massively behind London

The Government's levelling up agenda is in doubt with incomes in London and the south-east rising six times faster than 'Red Wall' areas since the 2019 general election, new analysis has found.

Boris Johnson gives a victory speech at the 2019 election. New research has found wages in 'Red Wall' areas have fallen even further behind London and the South-East in the last two years.
Boris Johnson gives a victory speech at the 2019 election. New research has found wages in 'Red Wall' areas have fallen even further behind London and the South-East in the last two years.

A report by the New Economics Foundation charitable thinktank said wages have gone up by just 0.3 per cent on average in Yorkshire and Humber compared to 1.3 per cent in London and 1.1 per cent in the South East.

The Yorkshire rise is equivalent to £90 a year, while the London change is worth £600 per year. On average, incomes in the north-east have risen by less than £20 (or 0.1 per cent) a year.

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The analysis found the top five per cent of families have gotten richer by £3,300 a year, while the poorest 50 per cent have had their incomes squeezed by £110. As a result, there are 300,000 more families in poverty in December 2021 compared with 2019.

Single parents were the worst affected families across all regions, with single parent families in Yorkshire and the Humber and the north-west and Merseyside seeing their incomes fall by around 15 times as much as in London.

Alfie Stirling, director of research and chief economist at NEF, said: “These results show that the government’s handling of the pandemic has led to the richest families and regions getting richer, while the poorest families are even poorer.

"With prices expected to continue increasing, the threat of a rise in interest rates and ongoing effects of Brexit, things could get a lot tougher for families that have already suffered most.

“In the long run, any agenda to tackle these issues needs to grasp the fundamental drivers of regional inequalities for places, people, and industry. But in the short term, more should be done to help families through the social security system. NEF’s proposal for a Living Income would ensure an income floor that reflects the true cost of living for families.”

Dominic Caddick, assistant researcher at NEF, said: “Far from ​‘levelling up’, on this prime minister’s watch the families and places that were already poorest have fallen even further behind the rest of the country. This would be an indictment on any government, let alone one where the promise to ​“level up” sits at the heart of its political and policy agenda.

“This analysis exposes the vulnerability of the UK’s current safety net in responding to real world change. We need a bold reimagining of income support: NEF’s argument for a Living Income would help people deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by the fast-changing economy we’re all living in.”

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