Public spending highest in devolved nations, says ONS

29 May 19

Public sector deficits were highest in devolved regions in the financial year ending in 2018, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

London, the South East and the East of England all recorded net fiscal surpluses in the last financial year, while all other countries and regions suffered a deficit, the official figures out yesterday showed.  

Northern Ireland had the highest per person deficit at £4,939 followed by Wales with £4,395 and the North East of England at £3,667, according to the ONS figures.  

London’s surplus stood at £3,905 per head with the South East achieving £2,258 followed by the East of England on £966.

It is the eighth consecutive year that the London and the South East have recorded surpluses, while the East of England has had a surplus for the last five consecutive years.

Some regions including North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have not recorded a surplus since ONS began collecting the data in 1999.

London also raised the most revenue per head last year with £17,090 but Wales and the North East raised the least - at just £8,691 and £8,938 respectively. The average expenditure per head across the whole of the UK was £12,091.

Northern Ireland and Scotland had the highest expenditure per head at £14,195 and £13,682 respectively. The lowest levels of expenditure were in the East of England (£10,970) and the East Midlands (£11,146).

Responding to the figures, the Institute for Public Policy Research North think-tank called for greater fiscal devolution.

Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North, said the figures show “London has received more investment in economic spending than any other region. This is what happens when central government is in charge of industrial strategy and infrastructure decisions.

“Instead of simplistic arguments over which region ‘subsidises’ the other, we must give all our regions more control over their own finances and redistribute funding from richer to poorer areas. This is how it works in other countries and their economies are often more balanced and prosperous as a result.”

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