BLACKBURN and Burnley have been placed in the top five “struggling” places in the UK by a new social and economic study.
But political leaders in East Lancashire have vowed to play a full part in the Northern Powerhouse push to redress the balance for the boroughs.
MORE TOP STORIES:
Authors of a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report have also called on Chancellor George Osborne to ensure the East Lancashire towns are not left behind as devolution is focused on Manchester and Liverpool.
Burnley is second behind Rochdale in the foundation’s index, based on research by the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University, with Bolton third and Blackburn fourth.
Report authors said Blackburn is “overshadowed” by neighbouring Preston, with more residents travelling to the city from the East Lancashire town for work. In the 1950s, with Blackburn’s manufacturing base, the reverse was said to be true.
Burnley is among one of the few 74 “cities” analysed to record a slight population dip.
But there was a more encouraging news for Burnley in the change in full-time equivalent jobs, which dipped by 8.8 per cent from 1998 to 2008 but increased by 4.5 per cent from 2009 to 2013.
Cllr Phil Riley, economic regeneration cabinet member for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The worst thing that can happen for us is that the Northern Powerhouse becomes simply a mechanism to link up the five largest cities. That it is why we are so enthusiastic about the combined authority for Lancashire.”
Cllr Mark Townsend, Burnley Council leader, who echoed this approach, said: “We have made great strides but we recognise that there are still improvements to be made as a significant gap which exists.”
Josh Stott, the foundation’s policy manager, said the Northern Powerhouse must reach areas outside the “core cities” of the region to be truly effective.