Gulf in spending costs widens between London and North-East

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

AN OUTRAGEOUS gulf in transport spending between London and the North is undermining hopes of closing the North-South divide, the government is warned today.

Local transport chiefs protested at new figures revealing the capital is grabbing even more of the transport funding pot - widening further the gap with the North-East and Yorkshire.

Treasury statistics showed that London enjoyed spending-per-head of £644 in the last financial year, far more than the North-East (£223) and Yorkshire (£251).

Worse, while the two Northern regions saw their funding drop in 2011-2012, London's spending continued to rise - widening the chasm by £36-per-head (North-East) and £16-per-head (Yorkshire), compared with 2010-11.

The capital now gobbles up an astonishing 34 per cent of the cash - yet has just 15 per cent of England's population - compared with the North-East (four per cent) and Yorkshire (nine per cent).

Pteg - the body representing passenger transport executives (PTEs) in England's big cities - said it was unfair that spending in the North is "dwarfed by the spend per head in London".

Geoff Inskip, its chairman, said: "Any visitor to London can see this with their own eyes - from Oyster cards to the new Routemaster bus and from the total overhaul of the London Underground to the new London Overground network.

"If the UK economy is to be rebalanced then we need to see some rebalancing of the transport spending that underpins the national economy."

Mr Inskip added that the gulf was a "relatively recent phenomenon" and simply did not exist in other key areas, such as education and health.

Maria Eagle, Labour's transport spokeswoman, added: "So long as ministers are signing off individual road and rail schemes in Whitehall, the in-built government bias to the South East will remain.

"It's time for a major devolution of transport spending to the regions, through new partnerships between transport authorities working hand in hand with LEPs [local enterprise partnerships]."

But Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport minister insisted it was "not surprising" that London - which he described as a "global capital" - received a huge chunk of funding.

And he said: "I absolutely reject the idea that other areas are underfunded.

"We want transport investment to bring the maximum possible economic benefit to the UK as a whole. That is why we are providing £1.8bn for local major transport schemes, outside London, over the spending review."

The North-South disparity is likely to grow because the country's two biggest transport projects - the Crossrail (£14.5bn) and Thameslink (£6bn) rail schemes - are both in London.

It has also been argued that the first stage of the proposed high-speed rail link (HS2) will benefit the South mostly, because it will be be built between the capital and Birmingham.

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