A STUDY has found 'the north' has been hit harder than the rest of England during the pandemic, increasing the levels of inequality in the country.

Even after factoring in deprivation, ethnicity and the age structure of the population, the mortality rate in the Northern Powerhouse region was worse than elsewhere.

The report, compiled by the Northern Health Science Alliance and other organisations, included a list of 12 recommendations to “level-up” the country, including renewed efforts to tackle child poverty.

The study put a conservative estimate on the economic cost of the increased mortality in the north at £6.86 billion.

It also estimated that the pandemic’s impact on the region’s mental health would cost around £5 billion a year.

Hannah Davies, of the Northern Health Science Alliance, said: “Health inequalities between the North and the rest of England have been growing for over a decade.

“This report demonstrates the impact that has had on the productivity of the region and how it has led Covid-19 to take a devastating grip on the North.”

The report led by scientists from the universities of Newcastle, Manchester, York and Liverpool found 57.7 more people per 100,000 died in the Northern Powerhouse than the rest of England between March and July.

They also said that since the pandemic, adverse trends in poverty, education, employment and mental health for children and young people have worsened.

Clare Bambra, Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, said: “Our report highlights that we are not all in the pandemic together with the Northern regions being hardest hit.

“Health and wealth in the Northern Powerhouse lagged behind the rest of the country even before the Covid pandemic, and over the last year our significant regional inequalities have been exacerbated.”

Last night Labour Party community leaders called on the Government to take action to address the inequalities, and to keep their election pledge to ‘level up’ the north-south divide.

Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “This is the latest of a number of studies which demonstrate the impact of the pandemic to be uneven across the country, with poorer areas and the north hit much harder.

“The Government must take urgent action now to stop the gap between north and south widening even further.”

Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, said Northern Powerhouse and Government’s levelling up agenda were ‘empty campaign slogans without any real action’.

He said: “In the year 2020 where you live in the UK shouldn’t determine how long you live.

“To tackle health inequalities in our region the Government could start by restoring the record cuts in local govt and public health funding that have taken place since 2010, by putting back into their calculations deprivation as a determinate of needed.’’

Easington MP Graham Morris said the pandemic has reinforced existing and historic health and economic inequalities.

He said: "We have had a decade of the so-called Northern Powerhouse and now the ‘levelling up’ agenda, but the North is falling further behind.

"The situation will not improve while all we have is Government rhetoric rather than action.

"If the Government are genuine in their promise to level up our region, they need to take several steps.

"Restore our regional minister, abolished in 2010. This would give us a voice around the Cabinet table. Create a Regional Development Agency with the power and resources to investment in the region’s infrastructure, particularly, health, housing, education, employment and transport.

"Recognise the importance of Local Government, restore funding which has been cut over the past decade, and devolved power and decision making from Whitehall to County Hall.

"Our historic inequalities will never be addressed while decision making and resources are concentrated in the remote corridors of power in London, instead of locally in Northern towns and cities.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the coronavirus pandemic has been 'extremely difficult' for everyone.

He said: "Despite all this, there is lots to be positive about and we shouldn’t ignore all the exciting things we have to look forward to in the future.

“We’ve been through tough times before as a region, and we’ve had setbacks that have been tough on us all, but we have always come back bigger, better and stronger than ever before, and I am confident that the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool will do so again.”

“We will get through this and we will come out the other side.”

A separate study published this week found the North-East could lose up to 14 years of growth because of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Sedgefield MP Paul Howell said: "I, along with many of my colleagues were elected on a mantra of levelling up and whilst I need time to fully consider the details in this submission it is intuitive that those in the areas needing to be levelled up are in the poorest place to cope when an event like the pandemic strikes.

"It is precisely why I am joint chair of the APPG for left behind communities and part of the NRG (Northern Research Group) and want to encourage action to remove the disparities shown in the report and improve the lot of people in the north."