Devon is one of the least socially mobile counties in the United Kingdom according to an inquiry by a cross-party group of MPs.

The report, Social Mobility in Counties, by the County All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and County Councils Network (CCN) says funding of councils including Devon is embedding a cycle of low social mobility.

MPs say the perception of counties as affluent areas has masked ‘deep-seated socio-economic challenges and deprivation’ in shire counties such as Devon.

The report says shire counties receive £182 in funding per head compared to £482 in London and puts Devon in the bottom 10 socially mobile areas.

The social mobility index was compiled by think-tank Localis.

Jonathan Werran, chief executive of Localis, said: “Our research for the commission shows young people in London are pulling away from the rest of the country in opportunity and educational outcomes as soon as they enter school.

“Young people growing up in coastal and rural areas of England are then further constrained by poor skills infrastructure and in many cases weak prospects for finding good local jobs that pay decent wages.”

MPs are calling for calling on the government to break outdated perceptions of shire counties as places with little social challenges and deliver a fairer share of funding so they can invest in raising social mobility, as well as new powers in skills and transport.

Peter Aldous MP, chairman of the County APPG, said: “For a long time now, the perception that counties are affluent and wealthy has meant they have been overlooked in terms of directing resource and policy towards improving social mobility.

“An outdated and inequitable method of funding local authorities has disproportionally channelled funding towards London and the major cities; holding back social mobility in county areas, and embedding a cycle of low life chances for residents. This is unfair.

“If we are to bridge rural vs urban divide in social mobility, then government needs to ensure that counties have fair and sustainable funding in future, backed by the powers to genuinely make a difference.”