A “STUBBORN” productivity gap between the north and south means lower wages and worse living standards for Rotherham, according to research by an organisation of business and civic leaders.
The borough ranks well below parts of London and the south east, with a productivity score less than half that of table-topping Tower Hamlet.
Rotherham business leader Andrew Denniff, who dubbed the “levelling up” concept a “nice sales pitch for the politicians,” said the findings were unsurprising and highlighted “major challenges” in the area’s mental and physical health levels.
Research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) judged the UK average productivity level in 2020 as 100, based on the gross value added (GVA) per hour worked.
Rotherham was rated 75.02, with Tower Hamlets at 179.17, Islington scoring 136.88 and Hammersmith and Fulham totting up 122.98.
Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, Barnsley was rated 74.6 , Doncaster 75.35, and Sheffield 84.2.
Researchers also found productivity increased 12 per cent in London between 2004 and 2018, and 16 per cent in the south east — but only four per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Henri Murison, NPP chief executive said: “The North-South divide is a deeply-rooted issue which has persisted stubbornly for decades — and it’s holding growth back for the whole country.
“Higher productivity means higher wages and better living standards.
“If the next Prime Minister is serious about tackling the cost-of-living crisis and levelling up, they need to harness the huge untapped economic potential of the Northern Powerhouse to create better jobs across our regions.”
Mr Denniff, chief executive of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, said he wanted to see a “higher skilled economy”, but the productivity gap would “not be news to anyone”.
He added: “There are major challenges to be addressed health-wise when it comes to life spans.
“You can get on a bus in one part of Sheffield and get off the other side and life expectancy drops by 10- to 15 years — this applies just as much in Barnsley and Rotherham.
“There are huge stresses and strains on people as well as physical health — there’s a challenge around mental health.
“It’s not just an economic gap — it’s a social one as well.”
Calling levelling up a “nice sales pitch for the politicians,” Mr Denniff said it was “nothing new”, citing the unification of East and West Germany in the 1990s, and in South Africa post-apartheid.
He said closing the north-south gap would require “a huge, long-term investment and commitment over a long, long time for the full effects to be felt”.
Mr Denniff added: “As a chamber in South Yorkshire, we’re working much more closely and strategically with both Doncaster and Sheffield Chambers of Commerce to engage with the combined mayoral authority from a regional perspective.
“We’re also working with our partners in local government, as well as the charitable and voluntary sectors.”
The partnership working helped avoid duplication of funding bids and programmes for the region and was designed to “enhance and underpin the work we are already doing to support local businesses”, he said.