Economic performance varies widely across towns, cities and rural areas in the UK. Spatial disparities are found in all industrialised countries, although on some measures the UK is significantly more unequal than comparable countries. These disparities are matter for people because local social and economic conditions directly affect individual living standards. In fact, research shows clearly that where you are born has a large effect on your opportunities in life. Spatial disparities mainly arise because of the strong tendency of economic activity to cluster in some places, which is driven to a large degree by the co-location of highly skilled workers and highly productive firms.
In this briefing we explore the key dimensions of spatial disparities and their evolution over time. We highlight some key policies that can help tackle some of these disparities in light of the proposals set out in the manifestos. The briefing is structured in two main sections, the first explores the extent of spatial disparities in the UK and discusses why people care about them, while the second section looks at the main drivers and scope for policy.