AN MP believes the government ‘does not seem to know where the north is’ after a landmark report revealed the ‘deepening’ north-south divide despite two years of levelling up ‘rhetoric’ from the Government.

The State of the North 2021 report by think tank IPPR North criticised the Government’s levelling up ‘rhetoric’ which remains ‘divorced from any substantive policy plan’ as it showed gaps in funding, job opportunities and educational attainment which have all been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Authors of the 50-page report estimate that in the five years to 2019/20, London received investment of £12,148 per person, over £4,000 more than the £8,125 invested per person in the North.

And, had the north received London-level investment in that period (2014/15 to 2019/20), it would have received £61.6 billion more capital investment that could have been spent on infrastructure-such as transport.

In November the eastern leg of HS2 (HS3) was scrapped while the planned Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) was curtailed.

MP Tim Farron expressed his frustration that Cumbria was not mentioned once in the 162-page Integrated Rail Plan for the North and the Midlands and said the government was ‘ignorant’ of the north.

“There’s talk about levelling up the north, but they don’t seem to think there’s any north beyond Preston- Manchester actually,” he said.

“So for example HS2 at the moment sails through Cumbria without stopping.

“We still see no investment in things like Lakes line electrification, having to wait to find out if the line will get the passing loop.

“The government is so ignorant of the north that it doesn’t seem to know where the north is and when we go north of basically the M60, and certainly M65, they have no idea whatsoever.

“And they particularly overlook the rural north.”

Other worrying figures from the report showed that in the north 21.5 per cent – 1.3 million jobs – are paid less than the real living wage, according to ONS figures.

And from 2009/10 to 2019/20, the number of people living in households in relative poverty has increased by four per cent – or 151,500 people, reaching 3.5 million.

The report stated that if ‘empowered’ the ‘asset-rich’ north has the ‘capacity to thrive’ in areas such as job creation and the move towards becoming net zero-the north generates 50 per cent of England’s renewable energy.

Flooding in Cumbria was also referenced as one of the realities of ‘climate breakdown’ that are affecting people’s lives, as the report looked at the COP26 deal.

According to the report northern regions tend to produce more emissions per capita, when compared to other English regions.

This was put down to an “outcome of high car use, some of the least energy efficient housing stock in the UK and a significant concentration of carbon-intensive industries.”

The report criticised ‘centralised’ decision making, as well as bid-based funding systems, such as the Towns Fund, the delay in publishing the levelling-up white paper-which will set out the government’s plans-and called for the government to relinquish more power to northern leaders and local authorities.

“Levelling up as currently being executed by Whitehall is flawed,” it said.

“It is centralised and top down, underfunded and its underlying approach to date appears to rest on regressive assumptions.

“The economic, environmental and education challenges that the north faces are longstanding and cannot be fixed by the small-scale interventions so far promised through the government’s levelling up policy.”

A Department for Levelling Up spokeswoman said: "This analysis is misleading as it focuses on just one part of our investment to level up the north of England.

"In addition to the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, we're providing record investment in infrastructure worth over £96bn, £12bn in affordable housing and a £2.6bn Shared Prosperity Fund to help rebalance opportunity across the UK."