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Two speed Britain

May 2012

Is the "north-south" divide intensifying and are local scale inequalities increasing?

The global economic downturn and Britain’s growing national debt have led the UK government to introduce a series of "austerity measures". They consist of dramatic cutbacks in public spending alongside higher taxes. How is the economic geography of Britain changing in response to these economic challenges?

This article examines evidence for an intensifying "north-south" divide and, at a local scale, emerging inequalities between neighbouring towns, both in the north and south. With unemployment now approaching 2.7 million, a new geography of uneven spaces is being created. What can the government do to help? The article concludes by analysing current growth pole policies, including the new generation of Enterprise Zones and the Regional Growth Fund.


This article supports teaching of A-level and Diploma studies of urban changes and regeneration strategies. It also serves as a teaching update for regional development, uneven spaces and ‘growth pole’ strategies. Finally, there is relevance for some GCSE courses (studies of urban processes and their management).

In the Members' Area:

  • Britain's new economic challenge
  • The new "two-speed" economic geography of the UK
  • Meeting the challenge: possible solutions and futures
  • References

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