IPPR believes the report will support the growing consensus that the government's key target for narrowing the north south divide cannot be met without radical policies which explicitly favour poorer regions - the north of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These include:
- increased spending on regional selective assistance - government grants which support companies in job creation - in areas of low employment
- Regionalising science institutions
IPPR, which will publish its work on regional economic policy in the autumn, argues that many current policies - including the New Deal, Communities Plan and science policy - discriminate in favour of the south and must be reviewed and in some cases reversed.
John Adams, IPPR senior research fellow said:
'The government is right to have identified reducing regional disparities as a priority. However, it needs to face up to the scale of the challenge. Tough decisions need to be made simply to stop the gap between the north and south growing, let alone meeting the government's targets. This is not just in the interests of the north but would ease the pressure on the overheated south-east which is faced with building hundreds of thousands of new homes with insufficient resources.
'The Treasury are right to be concerned that the extent of the regional disparities in the UK are a barrier to our overall productivity performance. It is essential that all other relevant departments - including the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for Transport and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport - are also fully engaged with this issue and the need for change.'
- IPPR were the first witnesses to give evidence to the Select Committee, and the report has drawn heavily on research conducted by the institute.
- IPPR is currently running a major research project into reducing regional economic disparities, A new regional policy for the UK. This keynote report will be published in October.