Tory governments spend more on London than rest of England – thinktank | Politics

The Treasury should stop directing so much money towards rich and productive London if it is serious about the “levelling up agenda” that Boris Johnson hopes will help him retain red wall seats, according to a report by centre-right thinktank Onward.

Its analysis by Neil O’Brien, a Tory MP and former adviser to George Osborne, found that the successive governments have spent much more on transport, science, affordable housing and culture in London than elsewhere in England over many years.

He found that transport spending was almost three times higher in London than the average in the rest of England since 2008 and the capital has received nearly twice the UK average science spending since 2001.

London will also have experienced five times as much support for affordable housing between 2016 and 2021, and nearly five times as much spending on culture as the rest of England between 2011 and 2018.

The thinktank said next week’s budget should be a moment for Rishi Sunak, the new chancellor, to rethink the Treasury’s priorities and stop the skewing of spending towards London and the south-east.

O’Brien, who advised Osborne and Theresa May before entering parliament, said: “For decades we have piled fertiliser on the parts of our economy that are already flourishing while refusing to water the seeds of growth elsewhere. The PM’s mission to level up poorer parts of the country is vital.”

The Treasury has been looking at rewriting its rules to permit greater investment in areas such as the north of England and the Midlands, after years of complaints that the current system overly favours London and the south-east.

The change to the method of evaluating the economic benefits of spending could potentially introduce new metrics, such as improving the wellbeing of people in certain areas, or reducing regional productivity gaps.

“I think as well as being good for the economy and the right thing to do, it is also good politically to be changing these rules that have existed for decades,” O’Brien said.

Johnson has embraced an agenda of “levelling up” across the country after gains in the north and Midlands propelled him to a general election victory with a majority of more than 80 seats.

Onward suggested the chancellor should “use every tool at his disposal” to improve regional growth and prevent government spending further unbalancing the economy. These also included proposals to devolve transport powers to more places in England and redirecting cultural funding away from the national institutions in London.

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