Blackpool ranked bottom for prosperity in new index
Research by a London-based think tank has found Blackpool has the lowest level of prosperity of any local authority area in the UK.
The Legatum Institute used a range of economic indicators and health and wellbeing measures to show the resort was most in need of ‘levelling up’ by the Government.
A comprehensive assessment of institutional, economic, and social wellbeing across the country’s 379 local authorities to create a new UK Prosperity Index ranked Blackpool in bottom place.
The findings will be used to track the Government’s ‘levelling-up agenda’ and hold decision-makers to account for improving the prosperity of all regions of the UK.
Suggestions in the report for how towns like Blackpool can increase their prospects include improving conditions for investment by businesses, providing better living conditions and boosting residents’ health.
Daniel Herring, deputy director for the Centre for UK Prosperity which has been set up by the Legatum Institute, said the index was not there so “one day Blackpool can be number one” but “so the people of Blackpool can have better lives.”
He added: “I think the index does show there are quite a few challenges to address around health and poverty, economic outcomes and employment and everyone knows these things are happening – a lot of what we are showing has been seen before.
“Hopefully, we can provide a fresh perspective on that.
“The real question for Blackpool is what is the binding constraint and what is the thing that is holding it back – where should the focus go?
“It’s very easy to just be overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge. What we would encourage is try to get to that point of understanding of what’s the first step out of this?”
The research found strengths in the North West’s non-metropolitan areas include low crime rates and strong confidence in local government, with the region benefiting from “relatively prudent management of local authority finances, good labour force engagement, and little economic volatility. “
Low property costs and few regulatory barriers provide a “good environment for starting and running a business”.
But the investment environment needs to improve with just a fifth of small businesses in 2021 making use of equity financing or loans, and “little appetite for overseas expansion for future projects.”
The region has the highest rates of lone parent families in the UK and higher than average numbers of children in care.
Other factors set out in the report include poor health and living conditions.
All these are issues recognised by Blackpool Council which has launched a series of initiatives in recent years ranging from its business loans fund to support investment, to setting up its own housing company to improve the quality of rented accommodation.
Multi-million pound projects designed to boost the economy include the construction of a new conference centre at the Winter Gardens, and the tramway extension to Blackpool North Railway Station.
The next phase of the Talbot Gateway will include a £100m office development to bring more than 2,000 jobs into the town centre.
Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said: “This index shows the needs of Blackpool that we have been lobbying for are justified.
“We are in the process of a significant regeneration programme that will see investment of over £500m that we have been working hard to justify with government.
“It is unfortunate they often do not recognise the needs of areas like Blackpool despite our constant lobbying, but we are trying hard to put put our case forward and we feel our plans will achieve the change that is needed to help our local communities.”
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said it was vital to continue to lobby ministers for more investment in the town.
He said:“As with many such studies, this is a clear demonstration of the need to deliver long-term, meaningful investment in our communities.
“The Government has already made a commitment with £39.5m from the Towns Fund which will lay the foundations for much more significant private investment in our town.
“But we must not stop there. I will continue to lobby ministers and to make the case for investment and levelling up in Blackpool whenever possible.
“As, I hope, normality returns in Westminster opportunities to do so will only increase.
“Whether improved housing, education and skills, employment opportunities or improved local transport links, there are so many ways in which we can deliver for people in Blackpool.”
Mr Herring concluded: “Unless you get everyone exactly the same, it’s always going to be a ranking table – the UK is already a really prosperous country and our global index will show that.
“What we are saying is there are challenges in the UK, but we are already starting from a high base – and the aim is to keep building it and keep going and bring the areas that have been left behind further along.”
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