A ‘BRAIN drain’ is depriving Southampton of thousands of talented young adults who flock to London, a report has warned.

Around 4,500 people aged between 22 and 30 moved from Southampton to the capital in just three years, official figures show.

The majority of those are likely to have been students, who left the city after graduating from university or college, statisticians say.

However, there was also a net exodus of 775 people of all ages, between 2009 and 2012, according to the Centre for Cities think-tank.

That makes Southampton unique among cities and major towns in the south, the rest of which gained citizens from London over that period.

There were net inflows of people from London to Bournemouth (1,830), Portsmouth (1,530), Worthing (1,094) and Brighton (3,243).

Centre for Cities, which carried out the analysis, warned that London was “sucking in talent from the rest of the country”.

And it urged ministers to finally make true on their promises to devolve more power and funding to English cities, to allow them to fight back.

Alexandra Jones, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “London is leading the recovery and its long-standing economic strength continues to attract talented workers. London’s strength is a huge asset, but we need to make the most of our other cities’ economic potential.”

The Centre for Cities report also showed the capital powering far ahead of other cities in generating employment.

More than 215,000 private-sector jobs were created in London between 2010 and 2012 - four-fifths of the total for the whole of the UK.

In contrast, Southampton lost 4,300 private-sector posts over that period, 3.4 per cent of the total in the city.

In response, cities minister Greg Clark agreed that Britain’s cities were the “engines of growth” for the national economy.

But he argued the Government was already turning the corner through the “City Deals” programme which, since 2012, had devolved power from London.

Among them is the joint City Deal for Southampton and Portsmouth, which the Government and council chiefs hope will create 17,000 jobs.

One of the key aspects is a £7m regional growth fund grant to make plans for the expansion of Southampton’s Watermark West Quay a reality.

Mr Clark said: “It is essential to hand powers over to cities so that they can take control of their own destinies.”