We don’t know exactly who in the UK gets what out of infrastructure spending. There are two key reasons why: the available data is very bad at answering this sort of question, and for most projects it’s not possible to single out who benefits. A lot of projects benefit people across the UK, others across several connected regions, like a long-distance railway for example.
The main published data also doesn’t include all spending by devolved governments, so it’s even more difficult to do comparisons outside of England.
We’ve covered the caveats on infrastructure spending before. For now, here’s what we can say from the available figures.
Of projects allocated to specific regions, London and the North West currently receive more spending per head than other parts of England.
The government calculates that, comparing English regions, London is set to get around £2,500 per head from central and local government from 2017/18 to 2020/21, just counting funding that could be allocated to a specific place. The London figure includes spending by Transport for London, so the comparisons aren’t very accurate.
The North West is similar at £2,300 per head, while the North East and Yorkshire are behind at around £1,300.
John Mann represents a constituency in the East Midlands, which does get relatively little funding per head from central and local government: about £1,400.
Other spending comes from private companies, which doesn’t change the picture hugely (the South West gets a huge bump in private funding from the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station project—though that’s also an example of a project which will be felt beyond the region it’s allocated to).
Wales overall gets much less per head from central government, with North Wales taking most of that from a single construction project. But that leaves out all the money from the Welsh government.
Separate figures from the Welsh government suggests it plans to fund around £6.5 billion on projects currently in the pipeline. Not all of those have necessarily started yet. One example is the biggest single project listed: a new M4 Corridor around Newport, in South Wales, due to start construction at the end of this year.
It’s much more difficult to pinpoint projects that go specifically to North Wales, and how that translates per head. As a very rough guide, and factoring in the devolved funding, Wales as a whole is on a better footing than most English regions but still some way behind London and the North West, in terms of their public infrastructure spending per head.
The Welsh government told us that while Welsh and UK infrastructure spending figures aren’t directly comparable, the types of project and the information they hold is broadly similar.
It said better figures were provided by the Treasury on spending comparisons per head between UK regions, although this only gives current funding for projects and not expected future financing.
Update 27 June 2018
We've added information about how comparable English and Welsh infrastructure spending figures are, provided by the Welsh government.
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