Boris Johnson's plan to "level up" the UK will require a similar scale of funding to the near £2 trillion spent on reunifying Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a think tank has calculated.
Centre for Cities said the schemes proposed so far by the Government were a "drop in the ocean" compared with the hundreds of billions of pounds that will be needed if the levelling up process is to be a success.
The analysis, first published by The Guardian, compared the UK's productivity and life expectancies in cities with other European nations to expose the scale of the task facing the Government. It showed that England's biggest cities, including Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, have the lowest productivity and life expectancy in western Europe.
In Madrid, the average person can expect to live nearly a decade longer than someone in Glasgow or Liverpool, where life expectancy is four years below the European average.
People in Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham live on average two years less than those on the continent, the figures show. At the same time, all major British cities other than London are at the bottom of the western European league table for productivity.
In Newcastle, Sheffield, Nottingham and Glasgow, the gross value added per head – a measure of what is generated by economic activity in an area – is almost half that in Brussels, Amsterdam and Munich.