The North-South Divide


The North-South divide. There has always been one, and there probably shall always be one. But one recurring theme I hear whenever talk of the recovery comes up is that the North is seeing very little growth at all compared to the Southern half of the UK. And being based in West Yorkshire, I can agree with a lot of that sentiment.

Property prices

The difference in property prices is probably one of the most contrasting features between the North and the South of the UK. For example, the current average house price in Yorkshire & The Humber is £158,034. The figure for the South East is £339,262 and it jumps to £587,972 in London. These figures are according to Zoopla.

That is quite a difference, and is very prohibitive if someone from the North fancied a move further down the UK whether it be for business or personal reasons. Such a large gap in prices is stopping the North from really making the most out of their property market. All the attention has been on the capital and the South East corner, with many Northern counties being left to fight over the scraps of new investment and attention. The daft thing is, it’s damaging to both regions!

It’s harmful to the North as it continues to miss out on all the meaty contracts and investment opportunities. It’s harmful to the South as the risk of a substantial and damaging collapse increases as prices continue to over-inflate way beyond what they’re actually worth. As for the business side of things, I’ll tackle that soon.

As long as the North-South divide between stagnant and skyrocketing property prices continue, the North is going to increasingly feel like a very different country, if not a separate one, to the South.

Doors a good barometer

I have often found that the prices of doors tend to be a good barometer between the North and the South. Up here, we’re littered with companies of all sizes trying to flog their doors for around the £600-£700 mark. Despite our range of amazing quality and choice, installers are still determined to sell their products for as cheap as possible. Us, well we tend to buck the trend up here, often selling ours doors for double that amount, and we make a good margin on them too.

Head further South however, a price tag of £1500+ for a door is something to be expected. Say that up here and us Yorkshire folk would take the sharpest intake of breath! I often hear of doors being sold for way over £2k and that those sorts of figures are normal. It makes sense. If you’re average house down there costs half a million quid, you’re not going to put a £600 door on the front are you!

It comes down to disposable income and cash unlocked via property. I don’t think I’m being too generalising that the South can afford to spend a bit more. Their property is worth more, salaries tend to be higher and some of the best cities to find jobs are in the Southern half of the UK. Therefore cash is a bit more easy to come buy.

As an industry, I do think there is a split between companies in the North and companies in the South. I know I have written a lot about the success of our installations business this year, and indeed it has been a good year. But this isn’t the case everywhere up here. The recovery certainly isn’t being felt in all places. Further South, and importantly the closer to the capital you get, the better it seems to get. That’s where the imbalance is and that’s where it’s starting to suck the energy out of the North.

Business in general

I’m going to sound like a complaining Northerner here now, but when I say that we don’t get the levels of investment the capital and the South gets, I really do mean it. The number of construction projects going on right now in London and the surrounding counties far outweighs the construction going on up here, and it has done for a long time.

Remember when George Osbourne announced that plan in the summer to connect the major cities up here and create a Northern powerhouse? Wondered why everyone up here made sch a big deal about it? It’s because this is the first properly major business investment we’ve had up here for a long time! He wants to connect Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield by investing up to £18bn in new transport networks, science and manufacturing investment. This is the level of investment we’ve needed up here for a long time. We’ve often been ignored as London has always taken the interest and money from investors both inside and outside the UK, while many other areas have been left to battle over the scraps. This cannot continue.

Much of the North, myself included, feel totally disconnected with the South, especially the capital. It often feels like going to a completely different country when I visit. I actually felt more at home in New York than I did in London! The Northern half of the UK, and I’d wager Scotland too, is drifting away from our Southern brothers, and it really shouldn’t be that way. Investment needs to be shared out equally among all parts of the UK. London has been dragging the South away with it for years, with the North gradually drifting away. There’s been very little in the way of proper growth here, we just tend to feel the warm back drafts of a stronger South UK economy.

The North-South divide is getting bigger, and at some pace. The growth, the prosperity, the positivity isn’t the same here as it is nearer the capital. Will it ever change? Probably not. But there does need to be some re-balancing, especially if the Tories want to win some seats round these parts come May 2015.

Is the North-South divide getting bigger? Is it something all media driven? Are you in the South but find business is still as tough as everywhere else? Are you in the North and want to see more attention for this part of the UK? All comments welcome in the section below.