‘SADDENING’ new figures have revealed Burnley has the highest rate of underage pregnancies in England and Wales.

Statistics showed there were 64 girls under the age of 16 who became pregnant in the latest three-year period, a rate of 13.8 per 1,000 girls in the age group, which was more than double the national average.

More than half of the these conceptions led to an abortion.

The data, published by the National Office of Statistics, also showed the pregnancy rate for Burnley increased slightly since 2008, from 12.5 per 100,000, despite the national rate dropping one percentage point to 6.1 per 1,000 over the same period.

Underage pregnancy rates in Hyndburn (7.4) and Rossendale (6.9) were also above the national average in the latest figures, which covered 2010 to 2012, while Pendle (5.9), Blackburn with Darwen (5.1), Chorley (4.9) and Ribble Valley (3.3) were all below average.

The data showed Burnley had the third highest conception rate for under-18s, at 50.1 per 100,000, although this was a record low and a massive reduction since 1998, when the rate was 82.3 per 100,000.

Earlier this year the Lancashire Telegraph revealed how the number of Burnley children taken into care has almost trebled in two years – the biggest rise in the Lancashire County Council area.

Former council leader Coun Julie Cooper said: “These new figures are very regrettable and concerning for everyone in the borough.

“It affects all sorts of things in society, such as youth unemployment and troubled families, so it’s really saddening to see.

“We need a concerted multi-agency effort to try and deal with it now, because clearly there’s a lot more work to be done. I suspect these girls are coming from more vulnerable socio-economic groups so I think education is key.

“We need to make sure our young girls are given hope and the opportunity of a decent life without having children at a young age.”