Politicians have clashed over a report which has branded South Yorkshire as the fifth poorest region in Northern Europe.
Inequality Briefing’s research measured the gross domestic product per head – with data showing the UK has the single richest region, inner London, and nine of the poorest, including South Yorkshire.
The Federation of Small Businesses is calling for six city regions, including Sheffield, to create a ‘super region’, with its own powers.
Gordon Millward, FSB South & East Yorkshire regional chairman, said: “This demonstrates the stark reality that the wealthiest people in the wealthiest areas are getting richer while the least well-off in the north suffer most from austerity.”
Coun Julie Dore, Sheffield Council leader, said the FSB was right that the Government was ‘not giving us a fair deal’ and devolution was needed to combat the North-South divide.
She said: “This Government has taken EU funding targeted at regenerating deprived areas of the country away from South Yorkshire and given it to better-off parts of the country.”
However, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader and Sheffield Hallam MP, said it ‘was untrue’ to say South Yorkshire was one of the poorest regions in Europe, as the study included only part of the continent.
He said: “It’s a fair point previous Governments have overseen an unbalanced economy, with too much focus on London. That’s why Lib Dems are leading on devolving investment and power to northern powerhouses like Sheffield. We want to reverse this divide.”
Amjad Bashier, UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, said the research was ‘depressing reading’, but a super region would take decisions away from local people, unlike micro-devolution.
He said: “There is a glaring inequality between the North and South and, while the Government brags about an improved economy, it has yet to be felt in the pockets of my constituents.”
* Today’s other stories: