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THINK TANK TURNS TO NORTH/SOUTH DIVIDE

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The Institute for Public Policy Research has launched a project aimed at tackling the growing north/south divide. ...
The Institute for Public Policy Research has launched a project aimed at tackling the growing north/south divide.

The year long project by the influential centre-left think tank, Labour's new regional policy: tackling regional economic disparities, aims to develop a regional economic policy which will mean unequal parts of the country are no longer treated equally.

The institute's research hopes to build on the government's latest policy, Productivity in the UK, published last year.

During the government's first term, ministers' regional policy was essentially a regional economic development strategy and heralded the creation of regional development agencies.

A statement from IPPR strongly criticised this policy for adding to the problems arising from regional disparities.

It said: 'It was not really a regional economic policy in the sense of targeting the lagging regions so as to narrow the gaps in economic prosperity. As a national policy, administered regionally, it treated unequal territories equally. It was not a UK-wide policy designed to promote territorial justice in terms of economic performance.'

The consultation was welcomed by the Campaign for the English Regions. Campaign officer Don Price said: 'Economic disparities are related to the power structures within the country. The UK is still one of the most centralised states in the western world so it's not surprising activity gathers around the centre.'

A spokeswoman for the Centre for Reform, a Liberal Democrat think-tank, said there is a growing need for devolved power at a regional level: 'This would allow local authorities to tackle problems of regional economies and generate greater prosperity by meeting the needs of an individual region.'

However, the Association of London Government criticised the project. A spokesman said London faces unique problems and this should be reflected in funding.

'Current consultation on funding arrangements means London could lose£600m, which would seriously affect some of the most deprived boroughs in the country,' he added.

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