Independent inquiry into UK’s regional inequalities is launched

The University of Manchester is part of a new research partnership supporting UK 2070, an independent Commission into the UK’s regional inequalities which has been launched at a reception in the House of Lords.

The Commission’s inquiry will examine the nature of inequalities across the regions and nations of the UK, explore the costs and consequences, identify underlying causes, and make recommendations for new policies to tackle the problems of poorer places, whilst supporting the sustainable growth of successful places.

The Commission’s membership includes academics from five universities and the USA’s Lincoln Institute for Land Policy (Cambridge, MA), as well representatives from the CBI, Core Cities, IPPR North, National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), the North West Business Leadership Team, West Midlands Combined Authority, and the consultancies AECOM and Barton Willmore.

They will be supported by a research partnership involving The University of Manchester, University College London, the University of Liverpool and the University of Cambridge.

“There will always be differences between places, but Britain has some of the most extreme regional disparities in the developed world - these impose great costs on society, and handicap our economic performance and productivity,” said former civil service head Lord Kerslake, who is chairing the inquiry. “It does not have to be like this – as many other countries demonstrate.”

“Regional inequality is not just about how to improve lagging behind regions, but also how to release pressure from places that lack development capacity,” said Cecilia Wong, Professor of Spatial Planning at Manchester Urban Institute. “There is a real need to examine the spatial relationships between different parts of the north and between London and the rest of the country. The gravity of spatially diverse problems in many places provides an imperative for strategic thinking.”

Professor Cecilia Wong
Without a proper national spatial strategy to integrate different policy sectors for our cities and regions, it is difficult to see how we can truly deliver a sustainable and equitable future across the UK, post-Brexit.
Professor Cecilia Wong

“We need strategies for places left behind as much as places with economic potential, in Britain and America alike,” said Armando Carbonell from the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, which is also helping to fund the study. “Laissez faire and abandonment is just not an option - the social and political consequences are too damaging, and could put our social cohesion and democratic institutions at risk. We hope to learn much from this inquiry, which will be of relevance to both Britain and to the USA.”

“In part the problems are caused by historic factors, but we need to find out whether they are also shaped by government decisions which have not been thought through,” said Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and Chair of Core Cities. “These may include concentrating resources for growth and development in congested places and generating demands for new infrastructure, whilst putting pressure on the environment.”

The Commission will carry out its work over the next 12 months, delivering a final report in November 2019. Alongside commissioned research and papers the Commission will launch a call for evidence, to be received by November 2018.

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