London’s success as a global financial centre has made it difficult to narrow differences between the regions, a government minister has said, calling for an end to the 'sterile' north-south divide. Financial Times, The Times

Stephen Timms, business minister, said the economies of the English regions had grown much faster than those in other European countries over the last 10 years, sparking a “dramatic renewal” in cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

But he said they had been unable to close the gap with London which had now become 'an extraordinarily successful world city', more comparable with New York and Tokyo than with British cities.

'We’ve been comparing our regions against a global financial city and finding them wanting. Any more rounded view shows there has been real and sustained progress,' he said.

'We need to move on from a sterile north-south divide debate to one that respects the real achievements of all our regions.'

The admission came in a speech to a City seminar organised by the Fabian Society, in which Timms said the regional development agencies, created by Labour in 1999, had transformed the economies of the regions.