Chorley is ranked high in social mobility league

Chorley's MP Lindsay Hoyle, leader of Chorley Council councillor Alistair Bradley  and town traders gather at the helter skelter to kick start the festive fun
Chorley's MP Lindsay Hoyle, leader of Chorley Council councillor Alistair Bradley and town traders gather at the helter skelter to kick start the festive fun
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Chorley is top of the crop in Lancashire for elevating the life chances of its residents.

That is according to a new Government investigation which has put social mobility under the microscope.

It has examined the best and worst places across England in terms of the opportunities areas provide for residents to progress in life.

The State of the Nation report published by the Social Mobility Commission ranks our market town 39th out of 324 the local authorities in England.

Councillor Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “It won’t come as a surprise to many people in Chorley because we know it is a great place to live and we do a lot of work to ensure people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential regardless of their background.

“We have a fantastic mix of thriving urban areas, beautiful countryside, the chance for people to take on high skilled jobs, very good schools and great transport links.

“All that combined makes Chorley a very desirable place and we can see that with all the investment in the area and businesses locating here.

“As a council we’ve done a lot of work to support this through the Choose Chorley for Business campaign, which has helped create hundreds of jobs, investing in community development and encouraging people to give something back through volunteering.

“It’s everyone together – us, the business community, schools and residents – who make Chorley a great place and it is great recognition to be the best place in Lancashire and one of the top districts in the country.”

While Chorley has been revealed as the best place to live in Lancashire order to climb the social ladder – Blackpool is shown to be the seventh most deprived local authority district in England.

Meanwhile the report shows South Ribble as the worst local authority for young people who have finished their GCSEs. It states that one quarter of the borough's teenagers are not in education, employment or training (NEET) a year after they take their exams.

However the numbers do not tally up with figure from the local education authority, Lancashire County Council.

County councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: "We aren't able to verify the figures in this report, or the period of time they relate to. "However, our statistics indicate that four per cent of disadvantaged young people in South Ribble are not in employment, education or training (NEET), when they leave school, and not up to a quarter, as the report suggests.

"Our attainment statistics for 2015/16 and 2016/17 for all young people in South Ribble demonstrate that their results are higher than the Lancashire and North West average, and these are in line with the national figures."

The State of the Nation report focuses on a geography-based analyses of social mobility. Using 16 indicators, the Social Mobility Index assesses the education, employ-ability and housing prospects of people living in each of England’s 324 local authority areas. The index highlights where people from disadvantaged backgrounds are most and least likely to make social progress.

Results paint a complex picture with a stark postcode lottery in the country, revealling how the geographical divide is not as simple as North verses South.

The report identifies orange hotspots such as Chorley where social mobility is more prevalent and blue cold spots such as Blackpool where people find it harder to progress in life.

The premise of the report, which argues that Britain’s deep social mobility problem is getting worse, is that the chances of someone from a disadvantaged background getting on in life is closely linked to where they grow up and how they choose to make a life for themselves.

“The country seems to be in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division,” said Alan Milburn, former chairman of the Social Mobility Commission who resigned over the weekend, citing frustrations at a lack of progress on the issue.

“There is a stark social mobilty lottery in Britain today.

“London and its hinterland are increasingly looking like a different country from the rest of Britain. It is moving ahead as are many of our country’s great cities. But too many rural and coastal areas and the towns of Britain’s old industrial heartlands are being left behind economically and hollowed out socially.

“Tinkering around the edges will not do the trick. The analysis in this report substantiates the sense of political alienation and social resentment that so many parts of Britain feel.

“A new level of effort is needed to tackle the phenomenon of left behind Britain. Overcoming the divisions that exist in Britain requires far more ambition and far bigger scale. A less divided Britain will require a more redistributive approach to spreading education, employment and housing prospects across our country.”

Regarding Blackpool the report states: “With a highly transient population and various social issues, Blackpool is the seventh most deprived local authority district in England.

“It has struggled to mobilise the requisite resources to tackle deprivation and regenerate following its glory days as a seaside town in the 1960s. One in five disadvantaged young people is not in education, employment or training, among the highest in England.”

However councillor Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet secretary for Resilient Communities told the Guardian that much was underway to drive social mobility in the seaside resort.

“Although we have a lot of social challenges, we are working hard to tackle these issues at a number of levels,” he said.

“Only two months ago plans were unveiled by the education secretary, Justine Greening to drive social mobility in the town.

“Blackpool is now one of 12 Opportunity Areas that are developing initiatives to improve opportunities for youngsters.”

Findings in the report highlight some interesting trends including that some of the most deprived areas in England are in fact hotspots for social mobility.

It argues that there is no direct correlation between the affluence of an area and its ability to sustain high levels of social mobility, providing good education, employment opportunities and housing for their most disadvantaged residents.

Conversely, some affluent areas are among the worst for offering good education and employment opportunities to disadvantaged residents. Similarly, some affluent places have high levels of low pay despite high average salaries.

However it makes a case that local policies adopted by local authorities and employers can positively influence outcomes for disadvantaged residents.

Issuing a call to arms the report states: “All too often the debate about social mobility becomes polarised between those who succumb to a weary sense of inevitability about our powerlessness to challenge the global forces that are reshaping the social landscape and those who subscribe to the theory that change can only happen if the whole global economic system is turned upside down.

“Both positions we believe to be counsels of despair. There is enough evidence from around the world, in our country’s own history and, contemporaneously, in local areas to know that, with the right approach, the transmission of disadvantage from one generation to the next can be broken.”