PROGRAMMES of investment will improve living standards in some of East Lancashire’s major towns, council bosses have said.

Data compiled by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government puts Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley in the top 10 areas that have the most number of deprived neighbourhoods ­— in the most deprived 10 per cent of neighbourhoods in the country.

But council bosses have hit back, saying investment and ambitious plans for both towns will drive the areas forward.

Burnley was eight in the list, with 38.3 percent of its small neighbourhoods being in the most deprived 10 per cent of neighbourhoods nationally.

While Blackburn with Darwen was sitting at ninth, with 36.3 percent of its small neighbourhoods being in the top 10 per cent.

The information also showed that, since 2015, the number of deprived small neighbourhoods in both Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley had increased by 5 per cent.

Bosses in Blackburn have said they are determined to help people enjoy a better quality of life, with a clear plan for economic growth and new investment in town centres.

A Blackburn with Darwen Council spokesman said: “It’s well publicised that we have experienced difficult times in Blackburn with Darwen since 2010, losing more than £140 million in funding through spending cuts.

“Budgets are incredibly tight and these are most unsettling, toughest times in local government history.

“However, as a council, we are absolutely determined to help people living in Blackburn and Darwen enjoy a better quality of life and the chance to raise their aspirations.

“Improving prosperity is what drives our bold approach.

“We have a clear plan, shaped and influenced by residents and businesses, with clear priorities such as economic growth, bringing in investment and transforming health and care services, whilst protecting services for the most vulnerable.

“We know there’s no easy answer to our big challenges and people living and working here accept that we are up against it - being one of the poorest areas in the country.

“However, just like our residents, we are resilient and determined. Blackburn and Darwen town centres are improving, new investment won by this council is being brought in, we are helping create jobs, getting people back into work and better quality housing is being delivered.

“We have led the way in bringing in resources to support our communities to improve their health and wellbeing and our schools are continuously improving.

“Successful partnerships are also a clear strength and we make the most of the enthusiasm and goodwill.

“There’s no denying, we still have a lot to do, but we have the potential, the passion, the ‘anything is possible’ spirit and unwavering sense of sheer determination to deliver the changes we know Blackburn and Darwen residents need and deserve.”

Burnley Council bosses have noted their ambitious plans to turn Burnley into a university town, with the hope of increasing the number of students studying there by 2025.

Chief executive Mick Cartledge said: “We are working hard with partners to find solutions and overcome the social and financial challenges our borough faces.

“Building a strong, vibrant economy is vital, offering well-paid and skilled jobs that will benefit our residents and attract more investment and people to our borough.

“For example, we have ambitious plans to turn Burnley into a university town, working with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to increase student numbers ten-fold, from 400 to 4,000 by 2025.

“We’re not downplaying the issues facing our residents but we are working hard to overcome them and to build a bright future for our town and the people who live and work here.”

The government analysis is based on seven different elements of deprivation - income deprivation, employment deprivation, education, skills and training deprivation, health deprivation and disability, crime, barriers to housing and services, and living environment deprivation.

Data is collected from 32,844 small neighbourhoods in the country, and is then divided into 10 equal groups (or deciles) according to their deprivation rank.

Other areas with neighbourhoods in the most deprived 10 per cent of neighbourhoods in the country included Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Knowsley, Kingston upon Hull, Manchester, Blackpool, Birmingham and Hartlepool.