The North of England receives one of the lowest levels of investment among advanced economies, a think tank has said.
Greece would be the only OECD nation to see less public and private investment, if the region was a country, according to a new IPPR North report.
Researchers found the UK as a whole ranks 35th out of the 38 OECD countries in terms of receiving the least investment.
Slovakia, Poland and Hungary all enjoy more investment than the UK.
If the OECD average was applied to the UK for 2017 to 2020, £397bn more would have been invested.
The report said the UK and the North are being held back by “vast inequalities” and “systematic underinvestment” in research and development, social infrastructure and transport.
The extent of regional disparities is shown in the report, including how productivity is around £7 lower per hour worked in the North than the England average, while hourly pay is £1.60 lower than the rest of England.
Northern mayors, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove and Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy are all set to attend Convention of the North today – a gathering of business, political and civic leaders from the region.
Political leaders in the region will argue that levelling up the North and South should be “hard wired” into UK law as they call for more long-term funding as opposed to the current competitive bidding system.
Ms Nandy will accuse the Conservatives of having “written off” areas that once fuelled the UK economy, while Mr Gove will say his government has over “the greatest transfer of power form Whitehall to local leaders across England in modern times”.
Marcus Johns, IPPR research fellow and report author, said: “Of all the advanced economies around the world, ours is the most regionally divided and getting worse – the North is at the sharp end of these divides and that’s a barrier to prosperity.
“But what’s even more unacceptable is that our country is divided by design. It is the result of decisions.
“The North’s strengths are national strengths. Northern prosperity can be national prosperity.
“It’s up to the government to unlock this potential, by acknowledging that it has to change, and by enabling empowered, well-resourced local government to coordinate and deliver long-term local visions for change.”
The report highlights other places in the world that were struggling but have turned their economies around, such as Leipzig in Germany, which is now the fastest-growing city in Europe thanks to industry and investment.
IPPR North director Zoe Billingham said: “The international evidence is clear – governments that let go of power and collaborate positively with local places can succeed in levelling up.
“Political leaders need to ‘zoom out’ and learn lessons from our international neighbours to achieve regional growth and narrow our aching divides. We know that private investment follows public investment.”
After announcing the latest recipients of the government’s levelling up fund last week, ministers faced accusations of favouring more affluent southeastern seats at the expense of deprived northern areas.
A government spokesman said: “This report fundamentally misrepresents the clear steps we are taking to level up the region and we are committed to spreading opportunity across the whole of the UK, including the North of England.
“This includes investing £3.19bn through our levelling up funds for regeneration, transport and cultural projects and £3bn to transform local transport networks.
“The government has also helped secure inward investment, such as Credera in Manchester, Nissan in Sunderland and Equinor in the Port of Tyne, creating thousands of highly skilled jobs.
“We have also launched Freeports in Teeside, Liverpool City and the Humber to drive investment and signed new devolution deals in York and North Yorkshire and the North East, giving more powers to local leaders.”
Rishi Sunak ‘made calculation he doesn’t need Muslim voters’, claims Tory MP Rehman Chishti
Rishi Sunak has “made the calculation” that he doesn’t need Muslim voters for his “political purposes”, a former minister has claimed.
Tory MP Rehman Chishti told Sky News’ Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge that during the last leadership election, Mr Sunak promised he was “committed” to engaging with the community and told him: “We will work together on this if I become prime minister”.
But Mr Chishti said he had “not seen the prime minister for over a year and a half”.
Politics Live: Islamophobia row deepens for Sunak
The former foreign minister – who once put himself forward for the Conservative Party leadership – also criticised Mr Sunak for failing to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia, which both David Cameron and Theresa May did while in office.
“I’ve said to the prime minister, look, let’s treat all faith communities fairly and equally,” he told Sophy Ridge.
“So with regards to the Jewish community, antisemitism has seen a real unacceptable rise and therefore the government has rightly put forward the resources [and] it has an independent adviser to deal with antisemitism.
“However, with regards to the Muslim community… the prime minister has failed to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia for the last 16 months and there’s been no funding… for that.
“And then you look at the prime minister’s statement [on Sunday], when he talks about intolerance and hate in politics, and he makes it very clear the government is committed to dealing with that and he says dealing with anti-Semitism. Absolutely.
“But there’s no mention in that statement yesterday about tackling anti-Muslim hate.”
Mr Chishti added: “I think maybe the prime minister has made the calculation, you know, he doesn’t want to engage with the Muslim community because he doesn’t need that for his political purposes.”
Sky News has contacted Number 10 for a response.
Mr Chishti’s remarks come amid an ongoing row within the Tory ranks over the suspension of former deputy chair, Lee Anderson, after he refused to apologise for claiming “Islamists” had taken “control” over London and that mayor Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”.
While Mr Sunak called the remarks unacceptable and “wrong”, he declined to call them Islamophobic.
Some Conservatives have called for Mr Anderson to be reinstated, while others want the government to go further in their condemnation of the Ashfield MP.
Mr Chishti said Mr Anderson’s comments were “completely and utterly unacceptable” and a “lazy use of language”.
But he would not say if the remarks were racist, and said it was another justification for having an independent adviser who could make a ruling without political influence.
Dramatic bodycam video: Two rescued after suspected arson attack in Birmingham
Two people have been rescued after being trapped inside a burning building, following a suspected arson attack.
West Midlands Police said firearms officers spotted the fire at Villa Road, Lozells in Birmingham just before midnight on Sunday.
The police officers alerted the fire brigade and then entered the building next door before leading the occupants out to safety.
Footage showed them using a battering ram to break down the door to make the rescue.
They also checked another property located above the fire but found no one was inside.
Police said their officers were checked by paramedics at the scene, with one going to hospital for further checks for smoke inhalation.
They added that their investigators were treating the incident as arson.
DS David Newson, from Birmingham CID, said: “This fire had the potential to have really serious consequences. Thankfully, the quick-thinking response of officers in the face of danger to themselves got the two residents to safety.
“We are working with our colleagues at WMFS Fire Investigation Team and would like to hear from local people as we try to build a picture of what has happened.
“Villa Road is a main route and we’d ask anyone who was driving along it between 11pm and midnight time, to take a look at any dashcam they may have, as it could hold vital evidence for our investigation.”
New military housing plans paused after backlash
The Ministry of Defence has paused new military housing plans following a backlash over the new rules on entitlement.
Andrew Murrison, a defence minister, said the MoD was “pausing the rollout of the elements of the policy related to Service Family Accommodation” after listening to feedback and conducting a review.
“This includes the move to needs-based allocation and in the short term the widening of entitlement,” he said in the statement published on Tuesday morning.
As first reported in Sky News, defence sources feared officers could quit over the plan to update rules on the subsidised housing offered to personnel in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and – where relevant – their families.
These included changes such as the housing offer for a lieutenant colonel or colonel being downgraded, as the military moves to allocating homes based on needs rather than rank.
The changes had been due to come into force next month.
The MoD will still push ahead with plans “to improve the standard of Single Living Accommodation, help military personnel get on the housing ladder by refunding up to £1,500 expenses and give personnel more preference in how they live,” the minister said.
Mr Murrison’s statement added: “Our Armed Forces personnel make extraordinary sacrifices to protect our nation, which is why our Modernised Accommodation Offer (MAO) gives greater flexibility, backed by an extra £200m investment.
“This is on top of £4bn to upgrade accommodation and build new living quarters for our service personnel over the next decade.”
An online petition calling for a review of the “new accommodation offer” had attracted more than 7,400 signatures by 16 February.
The petition said: “If the policy is implemented as it currently stands, we believe that armed forces retention rates are likely to fall to even lower levels than those at present.
“This could have an irreversible effect on the capability of the armed forces over both the immediate and intermediate term.”
While the shift to needs-based housing was widely-welcomed, according to defence sources, many officers would also see an erosion in the kind of housing they are entitled to live in following a three-year transition period – which caused outrage in some quarters.
One source told Sky that under the current system, a lieutenant colonel or a colonel – or their equivalent rank in the navy and RAF – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-to-five bedroom house with a floor area of 155.5 square metres.
A major – one step down in rank – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-bedroom house with a 137 square metre floor area.
Under the new system, any officer of any rank would be entitled to a house with a bedroom for themselves and an additional one for each child – meaning the higher-ranking lieutenant colonels or colonels would effectively see their housing allocation downgraded.
The source said that no compensation was being offered to make up for the loss of space.
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