Research reveals most urgent issues facing Preston residents
Tackling crisis on the HIgh Street tops the agenda for improving the city
Around one in seven people believe improving local shops is the most urgent issue in Preston, according to a survey.
It comes as the Government is set to outline its plan to 'level up' the country, though anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said it must improve on its "piecemeal" attempts so far.
A survey by the think tank Demos asked 20,000 adults in parliamentary constituencies across Great Britain to choose which one of nine issues most urgently needs improving in their local area.
In Preston, 14.9 per cent of residents chose good local shops.
This was followed by supportive communities and pleasant streets (13.2 per cent), and premises to support local jobs (12.9 per cent).
The most pressing issue nationally was also shops, followed by good transport and jobs.
Demos said prioritising retailers was particularly prevalent in more built-up areas, while rural communities were more likely to see a lack of quality transport as a problem.
The think-tank has urged the Government to reflect on its research as it considers how best to spend the £4.8bn earmarked for a levelling-up fund to reduce inequality across the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised a levelling-up White Paper in the recent Queen's Speech – to be unveiled later this year – saying it would "turbocharge" economic recovery nationwide.
But the JRF said the Government has produced just "a series of piecemeal individual policies" so far and called on the legislation to address the long-term challenges facing parts of the UK.
Mike Hawking, head of policy and partnerships at the charity, added: "The Government has now promised levelling up will be about improving living standards, and it’s against this promise that they should be judged.
"The best way to do this is by boosting jobs and growing earnings in economically weaker parts of the country, and we look forward to seeing the Government bring forward plans to do this."
The survey also asked people how happy they are with what is currently on offer in their area.
In Preston, an estimated 23 per cent of residents think that the provision of facilities they consider most important is nearer to 'bad' than 'good' – compared to the national average of 25 per cent.
The Centre for Cities said the main challenge facing many urban areas, particularly those in the North and the Midlands, is the comparatively low education levels among the workforce, meaning well-paid jobs are scarce and wages lower.
A Skills and Post-16 Education Bill – new legislation aimed at reforming education for older teenagers and adults – was also announced in the Queen's Speech.
But the Centre for Cities said the Government must "make good on its promises" to improve education and training opportunities if it is to level up less prosperous parts of the country.
Andrew Carter, the think tank's chief executive, said: "Lower wages mean less disposable income to spend in local shops and other amenities. As a result many struggle and close – creating a general feeling of being left behind."
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the Levelling Up Fund will regenerate high streets, upgrade local transport and invest in cultural assets.
A spokeswoman added: “Our Plan for Jobs will create opportunities for people of all ages wherever they live by boosting skills and giving them the best possible chance of getting a job."