The findings of the Gazette’s ‘Lost Generation’ investigation into the lives of young people in the resort were today mirrored by a major think tank charged with examining the quality of life in UK towns.
The ‘Centre for Cities’ study published what amounts to a damning verdict on the life chances for young people in Blackpool following its own extensive survey.
The areas in which Blackpool was seen to be failing by the think tank included:
WAGES: Blackpool is 60th out of 64 cities or big towns in terms of lowest weekly earnings – and real wages dropped £20-per-week from 2012-2013
JOBS: Blackpool is 59th out of 63 for jobs created in the private sector
AMBITION: Blackpool is 63rd of 64 for numbers of patents filed per 100,000 people – a crude measure of innovation
INVESTMENT: Blackpool is 56th of 63 when it comes to big blue-chip London-based or international companies employing people
FUTURE-PROOFING: Blackpool is 62nd of 64 for lowest SuperFast Broadband penetration (40.4 per cent of addresses)
The report also concluded the widening gap between towns like Blackpool (and even bigger northern cities like Manchester) and London was now all but unbridgeable.
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn blamed Government austerity measures hitting jobs in the public sector and said: “It is appalling that, in the first two years of this Parliament, public sector jobs were being stripped from struggling northern towns and cities which are also the hardest hit by welfare reform while London gained an astonishing 66,000 public sector jobs.
“It is no wonder, in light of that figure, similar trends have prevailed in the private sector. The statistics speak for themselves and, sadly, it appears this is a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”
However not everyone agrees.
Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys Paul Maynard said: “We need to task everyone in the town to work towards a common goal of long term high quality jobs.
“We need to attract investors clearly but we have a poor quality infrastructure and a poor skills base.
“Also the town needs to have a vision and I don’t get that from the council.”
Coun Paul Galley, head of Blackpool Conservative Policy Forum, has researched the success of cities like Vancouver and Hong Kong which he hopes can be mirrored on the Fylde.
He too believed the solution lay in Blackpool’s hands and said: “There will be some who see this report and play the victim card saying ‘look at all the money London gets’.
“But wringing our hands gets us no-where.
“What we need is to get our transport links sorted out, to skill our workforce to give the local employers what they need and a well-run local authority.”
The report makes much of the fact that only 17 per cent of taxes are levied and spent locally – the lowest local level of taxation in the world’s high income countries.
Gordon Marsden, Labour MP for Blackpool South, said: “We should be devolving more funding for local transport, local skills and local training to local government rather than have it micro-managed from Whitehall.
“This Government needs a proper strategy for second tier towns like Blackpool.
“They scrapped the North West Regional Development Agency which brought the tramway and jobs – it’s towns like Blackpool who always lose out when decisions are made in London.”
CASE STUDY: How caring Hannah found help
Hannah Ainsworth, of Central Drive, had a very different childhood to her friends.
From the age of seven she had to look after a mum who suffers from severe dyslexia.
“Even when I was at primary school I’d have to make phone calls for her and do all the letter-writing or help with her CV because her condition makes her very confused,” said Hannah.
“I did miss out on a lot when I was younger. I didn’t have any other friends because they didn’t understand that I had to stay in and look after my mum.
“I became less social on the outside and more social with my mum, so because I had to look after her she then became this burden and my best friend and my mum all in one.”
Hannah cared for her mother throughout her time at Revoe and Palatine schools.
Like many young people in Blackpool who care for loved ones she didn’t realise what she was doing was effectively a full-time job.
So she didn’t start to look for help until she was 19 – and that was only when things took a bleak turn.
“My mum got swine flu and pneumonia at the same time and was in bed for six months,” said Hannah, now 25.
“I didn’t know what to do because the medication wasn’t working for her, I felt the hospital wasn’t helping that much and I was a bit lost.
“Her dyslexia, on top of the illness, left her confused and she became very shaky on her feet.”
Her mum had a series of falls and broke her leg, collar bone and several ribs. That led to severe arthritis in her hands, shoulders, elbows and legs and she is now permanently on crutches.
But at least it led Hannah to Blackpool Carers Centre.
“They’ve been amazing,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t get a pat on the back, which is what you need because there have been times where I’ve been on my own when I’ve been really down and miserable.
“But you are supposed to get on with it. You feel like you have to do what your parents have done for you. You love that person and you don’t want them to suffer and if you are the only person that can look after them, then that’s what you have to do.
“But having the Carers Centre on my side now makes such a difference.”
Read more from The Gazette investigation - The lost generation: