Business leaders claim the West Midlands is the poor relation when it comes to infrastructure spending as a north-south investment debate rumbles on.

A report by the think tank IPPR North reveals that London dominates infrastructure investment, on the back of high-value projects like Crossrail and Thameslink, which is holding back growth in the north.

However, while infrastructure investment per head is more than 13 times higher in the capital than the West Midlands, it is also more than three times higher in the North West.

While HS2 is expected to start to boost investment in this region, Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said there remained an imbalance.

He points to Midlands Connect – a push for stronger links between the East and West Midlands – as an under-valued initiative.

He said: "The figures released by the IPPR, while dramatic, are not entirely surprising. The Midlands has consistently punched below its weight when it comes to infrastructure investment.

"The Northern Hub, a major rail project across the north, is a powerful example of how a successful infrastructure project can attract Treasury funding when the economic geography is wide enough. This has led to the North West achieving three times the investment per head than the West Midlands.

"HS2 will provide an incredible stimulus to the region's infrastructure but the Midlands needs to come together to ensure that infrastructure projects go beyond political borders.

"One way that the imbalance will be addressed is through the Midlands Connect project, an ambitious programme founded by policy makers across the Midlands that seeks to emulate the success of the Northern Hub in identifying how transport can improve the region's economy."

Data shows that infrastructure spending of £5,426 per head in London is almost five times the national average of £1,100 per head – which is in turn almost three times the £389 per head in the West Midlands.

 

The IPPR North report says that large-scale infrastructure projects can have a transformative effect on the local and national economy. It says that the north must come up with its own ideas for a range of major projects which could transform the northern economy.

The debate was opened up after it emerged five major cities in the north of England are set to unveil a joint £15 billion strategy to improve road and rail connections in the region.

Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield have teamed up to release a report – One North – outlining plans to build a 125mph inner-city rail link and better access to airports and ports.

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: "Effective infrastructure is the bedrock of an effective and efficient economy. Transport connections, flood defences and high-speed broadband networks all allow people and goods to move quickly from place to place and for business to flourish.

"It is widely recognised that the north of England loses out as government spending on infrastructure is continuously skewed towards London.

"The One North plan published this week provides a vision for the north, and George Osborne's promise of more resources in the Autumn Statement is also welcome. But more must be done in order to tackle imbalanced investment and deliver the rebalanced economy that the government wishes to see.

"If the north is to compete with Crossrail and the other major investments that are tilting the infrastructure balance firmly in London's favour, then it must come up with a set of projects which show ambition."

Midlands Connect is a collaboration of Midlands-wide local enterprise partnerships, Network Rail, the Highways Agency, local authorities and the business community.

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