06:25 GMT14 August 2020
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    The Conservative-leaning ‘Onward’ think tank has advised the Government to stop directing so much money towards London if it is serious about ‘levelling up’ Britain. This comes with a warning that Boris could lose his gains in the Red Wall if he continues to invest in the already rich and productive South while neglecting the North.

    Analysis carried out by the think-tank found that the successive governments since Tony Blair have spent much more on transport, science, affordable housing and culture in London than elsewhere in England over the last two decades.

    Evangelos Kontopantelis, Professor in Data Science and Health Services Research at the University of Manchester shares his views about the Conservatives lack of investment in the North and if he believed the North-South divide still existed in Britain.

    Sputnik: Does the North-South Divide still exist in Britain?

    Evangelos Kontopantelis: So we've done research that shows it's getting wider and getting worse ever since the 90s under the Labour government initially and it's gotten worse over time. Now we've focused on England but as far as I understand, it's a similar situation in Scotland and would seem that there were much higher mortality, if you account for the population structures and everything, in the North compared to the South, and to a large extent, there are deprivation driven deaths like suicide and alcohol abuse and even cancers that are related to risky activities, like smoking, drinking again, etc. So it's a very real thing and it's only getting worse.

    Sputnik: Given the Conservative parties victory in the last election, a lot of that came from surprise wins in the North of England. Do you think the Conservatives can capitalize on this and invest in the North?

    Evangelos Kontopantelis: Personally I would be surprised seeing how this government deals with facts and what they do with them. But it is an opportunity for them, I have to admit. If they will manage to do something the previous governments haven't managed to do with better finances in the last 20/30 years I will be very surprised because you need a strategy and you need very good finances to be able to do something about that and in the context of Brexit and all the projections, finances will be much worse. I don't see how they will be able to do that.

    Sputnik: Why is so much money spent in London? 

    Evangelos Kontopantelis: London is sucking up everything to a large extent by the way it is funded. So the treasury has a formula that says we will have the biggest benefit if we invest in X Y Z. It's always in London because it has the biggest population. So that's why they invest there more but then that's why people leave the North. Everybody who's healthy and looking for a job opportunity tend to go south. So it's a vicious circle.

    So the government invests more in London because more people are there so there's a bigger benefit initially, but then people from everywhere else in the country leave to go to London. So it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. So you have people leaving from Scotland, from the North, from everywhere to go to London, that's the biggest benefit. Let's invest in London, and then the circle starts again. Does that make sense?

    Sputnik: How could the Conservative party spend money to improve the North? 

    Evangelos Kontopantelis: That's a very difficult question and that's probably why we're in this situation because traditionally you got the working-class industries, you had coal, you had steel, you have all these industries that have gone for various reasons. So part of it needs to be education, part of it needs to get people to develop skills to be up to speed with the challenges and the opportunities that exist now. So it is a complete overhaul.

    That's why I think it's very difficult for one solution, for one thing, to fix all this. It needs to start right from the bottom and obviously needs investment, but primarily needs investment in people, education and job opportunities at any level. It is reflected in the loss of the middle class, middle working-class jobs like blue-collar jobs that have gone.

    So now you're either a fruit picker working in an Amazon warehouse or you are assigned with writing artificial intelligence algorithms or in that technical space. Everything else has been replaced by robots. That's part of the problem we have in the North.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    investments, Boris Johnson, United Kingdom
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