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Number of Europe's poorest regions in UK 'more than doubles'

Phillip Inman
Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer

Britain’s regions have failed to keep pace with the rest of Europe since the 2008 financial crash, according to figures that show the number of areas among the EU’s poorest has more than doubled.

In 2008 the number of struggling regions, defined as areas with a GDP per head of the population worth 75% or less of the EU average, stood at three – southern Scotland, west Wales, and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

In the most recent figures available from Eurostat covering 2017, the number of regions in this category has more than doubled to seven, adding Lincolnshire, Tees Valley and Durham, South Yorkshire and outer London (east and north east) to the list.

GDP per head is calculated by dividing a country’s national income, or GDP, by the total population.

Britain’s GDP per head, which took seven years to recover to the level it was at in 2008, has risen steadily since 2015, but only left the UK 30th in the World Bank’s global rankings.

Southern Scotland has improved its situation, moving up from 63% to 65% of the EU average. But Cornwall and west Wales have fallen further behind while the east and north-east of London has slumped from 83% to 72% of the EU average for GDP per head.

The High Pay Centre, which published the figures, said the seven UK regions were poorer than any other regions in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the rest of north-west Europe.

Luke Hildyard, the centre’s director, said: “We are often told that policies such as higher investment in public services, stronger trade union rights and worker representation on boards will be bad for the economy, but they are commonplace in Germany, Scandinavia and other parts of north-west Europe. Our findings suggest that there is nowhere in those countries suffering as badly as large swathes of Britain.”