Research reveals most urgent issues facing North East Bedfordshire residents
A fifth of people believe improving local shops is the most urgent issue in North East Bedfordshire, 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 North East Bedfordshire, 20 per cent of residents chose good local shops.
This was followed by good transport services (19 per cent), and premises to support local jobs (13 per cent).
This mirrored the national picture, with the same three issues also the most pressing across Britain.
In Mid Bedfordshire, however, 20 per cent of residents thought good transport services were most important, followed by good local shops (18 per cent), and premises to support local jobs (13 per cent)
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 £4.8 billion 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 North East Bedfordshire, an estimated 26 per cent of residents think that the provision of facilities they consider most important is nearer to 'bad' than 'good' – which was similar to the national average.
The Centre for Cities said the main challenge facing many urban areas 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."