BARRIE GRUNEWALD: Why is the north-south divide growing?

The policies of the Government and Chancellor George Osbourne (pictured) are creating a growing divide between north and south.
The policies of the Government and Chancellor George Osbourne (pictured) are creating a growing divide between north and south.

THE North-South divide is something we’re all used to hearing about. Usually it’s in economic terms. But last week things took a sinister new twist.

Public Health England unveiled a new website that details the causes of premature death area by area. It emerged that St Helens ranks 147th out of 149 council areas for deaths under 75 attributable to liver disease.

But we were just one small part of a sea of ‘red’ (worst) stretching across the north of England on the agency’s data map. The contrast with the ‘green’ (best) south was stark.

Excellent healthcare should have nothing to do with geography or wealth, but surely it’s more than a coincidence that the industrial north once again seems to fare worse than the leafy south?

Of course there’s more to it than that. There’s a lot people can do to help themselves. Wherever you live, making healthy lifestyle choices will always give you the best possible chance of living a long and happy life.

And we know that in many cases, people in St Helens are dying unnecessarily early. They are not drinking within the recommended limits, eating a healthy diet or getting enough exercise and relaxation. All these things make a difference.

We’re also concerned at the rapid growth, over the last 20 years, of the number women being diagnosed with liver disease.

In April, councils across the UK took over responsibility for public health so helping to tackle problems like heart, lung and liver disease is now one of our responsibilities. And our Public Health team is already on the case – expanding the range of services available to tackle these issues.

But the message to everyone is – seek help as early as possible.

ILLEGAL money lending is a crime that affects an estimated 310,000 households across the UK. Loans sharks typically ‘befriend’ their borrowers before forcing them to pay back above and beyond what they have borrowed and can afford.

But now we’re encouraging people to bite back at these unscrupulous individuals with a campaign that’s aimed specifically at men.

Why just men you ask? Well, research shows that while the number of men and women affected by loan sharks is virtually the same (52 per cent female, 48 per cent male), men are far less likely to make a complaint.

Credit unions provide a safe, legal alternative to using loan sharks. The democratically-run, financial co-operatives offer convenient savings and low interest loans to members. Members own and manage their credit union themselves.

To report a loan shark call the confidential hotline 0300 555 2222. To find your local credit union visit

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