THE UK risks experiencing levels of inequality last seen during the era of the Great Depression if the Tory government continues an austerity drive, a leading social expert has warned.

Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder professor of geography at the University of Oxford, said a map of mortality rates he previously drew up showed in the 1930s there were “two Britains” which developed – one with high mortality rates and the other with much lower deaths.

He warned if the trend is beginning again and will be repeated if the UK Government “carries on as they have been doing since 2010”.

The warning comes in the wake of a major study carried out by researchers in Glasgow which concluded the economic policies of the Tories are likely to have caused more deaths than the Covid pandemic.

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Experts at Glasgow University and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health said their “not only shocking but shameful” statistics showed that almost 335,000 more deaths than expected were recorded across Scotland, England and Wales over an eight-year period.

Dorling (pictured), a social geographer who has written a series of books on inequality, said in the 1990s, he had published a Social Atlas of Britain which looked at historical mortality rates by area.

He told the Sunday National: “The thing that surprised me then is that in the 1930s there was a bimodal distribution, there was a large set of areas which had mortality 20% or 30% above the average.

“There were not that many areas which had average UK mortality and then there were a smaller set of areas with much lower mortality than average.

“So we had become so unequal by the 1930s with mass unemployment in particular areas that you had these kind of two Britains, if you like.”

Dorling said over the next few decades, there was an “enormous and rapid” equalisation that happened socially and economically, which was reflected in the “geography of mortality”.

But he said: “The worrying thing about the studies done by the Glasgow researchers and many others in the last 10 years, is that it is not just that life expectancy stopped rising after 2014.

“It was actually a fraction lower for the UK as a whole in 2018 than it was in 2014, which was quite remarkable – you don’t see that anywhere else in Europe.

“But underlying that, mortality rates went up the most in the most deprived groups and most deprived areas, and were actually still falling in the better off areas.

“So you are beginning to get the trend you need if you are going back to that 1930s pattern again.”

He added: “That’s just what the effect of a continuation of current trends would be and as yet we don’t have any evidence the trend isn’t continuing.”

Dorling suggested among the measures the UK Government could have introduced is bringing down the cost for energy needed to heat one or two rooms and provide for cooking, while increasing prices for any other additional needs.

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Without policies such as these, the country is “heading towards that 1930s difference between people,” he said.

Downing Street has claimed Liz Truss rejects austerity, but in her speech on Friday, she admitted public spending will be reduced. New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said yesterday there was going to be some “very difficult decisions on both spending and tax”.

But Dorling added: “You began to see in the 1930s the starting of the thinking that this wasn’t right and you had to do something different amongst very well-off, posh, otherwise disinterested people.

“You could, if you are being optimistic, say you are seeing that in part of the Conservative Party just now, that just says you cannot take this any further. It is a question of whether we are at the beginning of that kind of sea-change.”