A LEADING think-tank warns today that the North of England is still lagging behind the South despite the Conservative government's election winning promise to 'level up' the country's regions.

The IPPR North said that its latest annual study published today was an 'urgent wakeup call'.

Its report ‘State of the North 2020/21: Power up, level up, rise up’ said Covid-19 had made the challenge of reducing regional inequalities even greater.

The research claimed the North is experiencing levels of joblessness not seen since 1994.

It said rates of child poverty are higher in the North than across England with one in three Northern children living in poverty, five per cent more than the rest of England excluding London.

The study's figures show Burnley had a jobless claimant rate in October of nine per cent of the working aged population (4,700 people), Blackburn with Darwen eight per cent (7,600 people), Hyndburn eight per cent (3,800), Ribble Valley three per cent (1,200), Pendle seven per cent (3,900 people) and Rossendale 6.5 per cent (2,900 people).

The study said that in Blackburn with Darwen one in five jobs pay below the real living wage and in the Lancashire County Council area 28 per cent.

Figures showed increases in child poverty between 2015 and 2019 in Blackburn with Darwen of 8.2 per cent; Pendle 7.8 per cent; Burnley 6.5. per cent and Hyndburn 6.5 per cent.

Sarah Longland, the director of IPPR North, said: “The government was elected on a promise to ‘level up’ the North. But one year on, they don’t have a plan to reduce inequalities between regions in England.

"Our regional divides are severe and growing. This is a wake-up call.”

Hyndburn Conservative MP Sara Britcliffe said: "This report highlights exactly why the government has prioritised the levelling up of the north and why I will continue to push for this with colleagues from East Lancashire. The creation of more, skilled and well paid jobs will start an investment cycle leading to economic rejuvenation across the North."

Blackburn Labour MP Kate Hollern said: "This crisis has laid bare the inequalities we have suffered in Lancashire and the government has shown that, despite the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had, its commitment to powering up the region is wafer thin.”

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham, elected in December last year as the first Tory MP for the town in 109 years, said: "Coronavirus is undoubtedly having an impact on Burnley. I will not be deterred in delivering on my promise to bring government focus and investment to level up our borough and region."