FEWER people were using the internet in Blackburn at the start of 2020 than in 2019, data has shown.

Data, which was released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that internet usage has fallen from more than 90 per cent in 2019 to less than 85 per cent the following year.

In the first three months of 2020, 84.6 per cent of people in Blackburn with Darwen used the internet while in the same period of 2019, 90.1 per cent of people were online in the borough.

The other 15.4 per cent of residents in the borough in 2020 have either not used the internet for at least three months or have never used it.

In the Government’s 2014 “Digital Inclusion Strategy”, the target was set to ensure everyone who can be digitally capable will be by 2020.

Executive Member for Digital and Customer Services, Councillor Quesir Mahmood said: “Some elements of our digital strategy are looking to address those wider issues around internet usage.

“In the last two years, the number of residents interacting with us on digital platforms has increased in their thousands.

“It’s difficult to put your finger on one particular aspect there will be other elements adding to this but demographics and poverty will be adding to that, affordability comes into it.

“There are numerous challenges.”

Despite the drop in usage, there is potential that usage may have changed since the pandemic hit the country.

The most recent data used in this study, collected by the Labour Force survey (LFS), was taken between January and March 2020 so it is not possible to use it indicate changes in internet usage because of the pandemic.

In the North West, where an average of 91 per cent of people are online, the only area with lower internet use than Blackburn with Darwen is Liverpool where 15.8 of people are not using the internet.

Across the rest of East Lancashire, 93.8 per cent of people are using internet, with the highest number of users being Chorley and West Lancashire where 97.9 per cent of people are online.

According to the latest ONS data analysed by Rouge Media, in the first three months of 2020, 4.16 million UK residents had never used the internet or hadn’t used it in the past three months compared to 4.8 million in 2019 before the pandemic hit - a year-on-year decrease of 633,000 people.