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THE growth in public spending in northern areas of Britain is so rampant that it is resulting in the "sovietisation" of swathes of the country, new figures show.
Gordon Brown, the chancellor, has pushed up national public spending beyond the levels of former communist countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The dependence on the public sector of the north of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has grown so sharply over the past year that many areas are now significantly more reliant on public spending than countries such as Sweden, known for the bloated size of its welfare state.
The new figures, compiled by analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) and to be released in a report tomorrow, show that between 2001-02 and 2005-06, public spending grew from 38.9% to 43% of gross domestic product.
The national increase over the past year, from 42% to 43%, disguises the fact that in southern regions dependence on the state has barely risen, while in northern areas it has jumped sharply.
The reliance on the public sector varies between regions, from just 33.4% in London to 71.3% in Northern Ireland. The public spending share in Northern Ireland has risen from 65.2% to its present level in four years; Wales has gone up from 56.3% to 62.4%; the northeast from 56.4% to 61.5%; Scotland from 50% to 54.9% and the northwest from 47.8% to 52.6%.
The “sovietisation” of parts of Britain as a result of Brown’s huge increases in public spending looks even more dramatic when the figures are adjusted for comparison with other countries. On this basis, public spending is equivalent to 76.2% of the size of the Northern Ireland economy this year, 66.2% in Wales, 64.9% in the northeast, 57.7% in Scotland and 56.1% in the northwest.
This compares with 56.1% in high-spending Sweden, 54.1% in France, 51.9% in former communist Hungary, 51.5% in Denmark, 46% in Germany, 42.6% in the Czech Republic, 41.2% in Poland and 36.3% in Slovakia.