Poor regions left behind by boom

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The Independent Online

The upturn in England's economic fortunes in the late 1990s has left the most deprived areas of the country lagging even further behind the more affluent, a study reveals today.

The upturn in England's economic fortunes in the late 1990s has left the most deprived areas of the country lagging even further behind the more affluent, a study reveals today.

Between 1995 and 2000, the number of people claiming means-tested out-of-work benefits fell steeply. But the proportion of claimants no longer on benefits was much higher – between 70 and 75 per cent – in prosperous areas including the South-east, the East, the South-west and London regions, research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows.

In the unemployment blackspots of the North-east, the North-west, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Humberside, however, 62 to 67 per cent of claimants found work.

In traditional mining, manufacturing and industrial areas, the decline in claimant rates was particularly slow, reinforcing the North-South prosperity divide.

Martin Evans, a senior research fellow at Bath University and co-author of the report, said every area had benefited from the economic growth. But areas with the highest claimant counts had been "left behind because benefit claims in other areas fell faster".

For example, in 1995, nearly 41 per cent of adults in the deprived area of Peckham, south-east London, were claiming unemployment benefits compared with less than four per cent in the more wealthy Oxford area. While the Peckham claim rate had fallen to 25 per cent by 2000, the inequality gap between the two areas grew by 26 per cent, the authors say.

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