UK internal migration stats: here are three things you need to know

The rooftops of Colne, Lancashire. Image: Getty.

Yesterday, the government released a new round of internal migration figures, covering 2014-15. They show how people who already live in the UK move around each year, and can be quite revealing – and they have some interesting implications for the north and the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

1. The north is a magnet for students, but loses too many graduates

The north’s 29 higher education institutions are clearly a draw to many young people: they educate 521,000 undergraduates at any one time. Today’s figures show 15-19 year olds moving to the north in large number: the North East saw in influx of 9,000, the North West 15,000, and Yorkshire & Humber 19,000 – this was more than moved out in two of these regions. (The exception was the North West.)

But those aged 20-29 tended to leave the north in greater number than they arrived. The north’s cities have long prioritised retaining graduates, but the other half of this equation is also important: research has shown that a major reason the north falls short is because those who leave to study elsewhere in the UK are less likely to return once they’ve graduated.

2. London is growing – but not how you think

While the capital is a magnet for the 20-29 year olds, other age groups have a greater tendency to leave. Some 113,000 people aged 20-29 moved into London, far more than moved out (75,000).

But every other age group saw a net reduction in population. If it weren’t for those 20-somethings, London’s population would have fallen by 78,000 (0.9 per cent).

3. Rural areas in the north are most popular for inward migrants

Large numbers of people do move to the north – but it is some of the rural areas that benefit most.

Some 185,000 people moved into the north from other UK regions in 2015. This includes 31,000 people moving from London, and almost twice as many (60,000) from the Midlands.

But the northern districts that saw largest influxes relative to their size were rural: Wyre, Ryedale and Fylde. Even in absolute terms it was the rural districts which saw the biggest increases: Cheshire West and Chester, Wyre, and Durham. This indicates the attraction of rural areas as place to live – but many will of course travel to work in the major cities.

It is clear from these figures that the North is a place where many want to live, but that they aren’t necessarily attracted to the north’s urban centres. At the same time many leave the north to live elsewhere in the UK – particularly young graduates.

Understanding why both of these moves occur will be in important first step towards a more prosperous northern economy.

Luke Raikes is a research fellow at IPPR North. He tweets at @lukeraikes.

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What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.