Residents of Blackpool are victims of a widening north- south divide when it comes to life expectancy and health, a leading conference has been told.
And unless the Government starts investing more money into the north, the gap will worsen.
That was the hard-hitting message from speakers at the first North of England Fairness Conference held in the Tower Ballroom yesterday.
Around 300 delegates from across the north of England attended the day long workshop hosted by the Blackpool Fairness Commission in partnership with Public Health England.
Professor Paul Johnstone, director of Public Health England in the North, said the current economic upturn was benefiting the more affluent places first, particularly in the South East and London where more jobs are being created.
But other parts of the UK are missing out and he warned the Government needed to invest in the north in the same way West Germany invested in East Germany follow reunification.
He said: “The north will not pick up unless we have a complete rethink.
“I think the divide of life expectancy will continue if we don’t do something about it.
“I would like to see a commitment that as a country we invest in the north of England in the same way West Germany did in East Germany in the ‘90s.”
Another speaker Tracey Robbins, programme manager for the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation, described how loneliness was now recognised as a major factor in health inequalities.
She said: “People are more at risk of loneliness in deprived neighbourhoods and there is less capacity to get involved in their communities.
“The pubs and libraries are no longer there, and there is a real issue about where people are going to meet and create their support networks.”
Dr Arif Rajpura, chairman of Blackpool Fairness Commission, said the conference would lead to an action plan to help tackle inequality.
He said; “What we are hearing is a tale of two countries where we have this big north/south divide.
“When you look at lower life expectancy, deprivation and poor educational outcomes, all of these things are concentrated in the north of the country.
“What we hope will come out of today’s conference, is a voice for the north of England because everyone across the country should have the same opportunities.”