A stark profile of Bradford has revealed that the gap between rich and poor is bigger than anywhere else in the country.
Child poverty is rife and unemployment stands at a 13-year high.
The reality check is revealed today in two detailed “warts and all” studies covering all aspects of the district’s performance.
Bradford Council’s Local Economic Assessment and Bradford District Partnership’s State of the District reports have been drawn up for the first time in line with Government policy.
They provide a platform from which the Council must now draft its economic and community strategies by early next year.
Councillor Dave Green, the Council’s executive member for regeneration and economy, said: “These are ‘warts and all’ evaluations which will play a vital part in our plans to take action on the key economic and social issues facing our district.
“There’s no benefit in hiding away from the issues that need most attention – this process gives the Council and its partners the chance to review them, give them the attention they require and keep track of our progress so we know we are delivering.”
Although the gap between rich and poor is the country’s worst, Bradford is only ranked the 32nd most deprived local authority out of the 354 in England.
And the reports stress the district has many assets to capitalise on, including having the region’s third largest economy, a strong enterprise ethic and growing tourism.
Mike Cowlam, the Council’s assistant director for economic development, said the deprivation gap could be explained by the contrast between thriving Ilkley and Bradford’s inner-city wards, but he admitted the challenges the district faced could be heightened by Government public spending cuts which will be announced on Wednesday, October 20.
He said: “We have to tackle multi-generational unemployment, get more people into education, get better results from their education and make places more attractive to live in.
“There’s no doubt that regeneration activity is likely to be operating under reduced funding next year, which is particularly unfortunate because if Bradford struggles, the region and the North of England struggles.”
But Mr Cowlam insisted the situation facing the district was not inevitably going to worsen before it got better.
“It’s well-placed because of the actions it has taken,” he said. “The City Park will improve the environment and we’ve had major investment from Marks & Spencer and Provident Financial to create new employment opportunities.
“But we have got to look now at new ways of delivering Council services and regeneration projects.
“We will look at new Government funding programmes such as borrowing regeneration money against future rate income.
“The Regional Growth Fund is £1 billion over two years and we will be bidding for that.
“The Council is a major owner of assets in the district. We’re going to have to look at new ventures such as taking assets and putting them into projects of major regeneration programmes where there is an opportunity for money to come back into the Council at the end.”
Mary Weastell, the Council’s strategic director for performance and commissioning, also said Bradford needed to exploit what it had.
“Even going into this difficult period there are some things here that we can actually exploit and really start using to make Bradford far more resilient,” she said.
“We have a medium to high technology, manufacturing and business sector which is promoting a growth, some fantastic enterprise work going on and a platform for driving a cultural and creative industry approach, particularly around the environmental-technologies industry.
“One of the highest scores we had when the work was done to compare local authorities was our natural cultural assets and amenities – our parks, theatres, museums, galleries.
“We have a vibrant economy around these but I don’t think we have exploited that enough.”
The Council and the District Partnership will use the findings of the studies over the next few months during consultations with partners to develop their key priorities for the forthcoming strategies.