(By Steven Morris/Guardian) Report reveals most non-Londoners feel capital dominates culturally, economically and politically but its success fails to benefit them.
What many believe is a growing divide between London and the rest of the country has been underlined by a study published on Tuesday that concludes most people who live outside the capital strongly believe it gets a much better deal than the rest of the UK.
Only a quarter of non-Londoners feel the capital benefits the economy where they live while almost two-thirds say the location of central government in Westminster means political decisions favour the city over everywhere else.
Three-quarters of people who do not live in London think the media concentrates too much on the capital.
Broadly, the further the researchers moved from the south-east – particularly in a northerly direction – the more citizens said they got a raw deal in comparison with London. On the other hand, most people said they would not try to improve their lots by moving to London – adjectives used to describe the city included “chaotic”, “crowded” and “expensive”.
The researchers found that two-thirds of adults outside London thought the capital had a positive impact on the national economy. However only 24% felt it was good for their particular local economy. In some northern cities fewer than one in 10 people thought London had a positive effect on the wealth of their neighbourhoods (for example in Sheffield and Hull the figure was 8%, in Liverpool 9%).
When it comes to politics, 64% of non-Londoners thought decisions were too focused on the capital with such sentiment most pronounced in Leeds and Sheffield (79%) and Glasgow (78%).
Just 17% of those questioned thought Whitehall and parliament were responsive to local issues. Manchester was a little more positive with 21% saying Westminster was in touch. One theory for this suggested in the report is that Manchester leaders have more powers, funding and flexibilities – for example, its recent City Deal – and has conveyed this to its citizens.
In discussions with councils, businesses, community and university leaders organised as part of the study participants felt there was an imbalance in their relationship with their counterparts in London.
One roundtable participant said there was “general public anger” about what London gets and the others do not – there was a feeling that “You’re OK if you’re inside the London bubble, but if you’re outside it, you’re ‘well outside.'”
Questioned about the media, 22% said they felt broadcasters and print organisations were “very focused” on London and 54% thought they were “fairly focused.” One roundtable commentator gave the example of there being too few reviews in the national papers from restaurants outside London because the writers would have to spend too much time and money travelling.
There were interesting thoughts about the quality of life in London. Asked to select five words that described London, 62% opted for “expensive” and 59% “crowded”. Thirty-five percent plumped for “cosmopolitan”, 32% for “cultural” and 30% “chaotic”. Only 32% of non-Londoners thought the capital was a good place to raise a family.
Despite people’s suspicions about London, almost one in four non-Londoners have lived in the capital. But only one in five said they would consider living there in the future.