West Bromwich and Walsall named among 10 most deprived areas in country
Two Black Country towns have been named as among the 10 most deprived areas in the country.
West Bromwich and Walsall were ranked as part of the Office for National Statistics official study into housing and poverty, which published figures for the country's top 10 'most deprived towns'.
West Bromwich was second in the list, behind Oldham, while Walsall came fourth, behind Liverpool.
Council leaders hope the statistics will send a message to Downing Street over proposed cuts to local government.
Walsall Council Leader Mike Bird said: "These surveys are always done by people who have not visited the area.
"There are pockets of deprivation in Walsall but there are also pockets of affluence.
"Certainly I think there are places in the country that could be considered more deprived than Walsall.
"But I hope the message goes to government and make them think about proposed cuts to local governments."
West Bromwich ranked lowest for the area with the worst income and employment, out of a total 109 areas.
Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper said "We are fighting against the rising debt.
"With the austerity that our area has faced over the last six or seven years it is hardly surprising that unemployment is continuing to rise.
"We have faced massive cuts from central government, and this has taken a huge amount of money out of the local economy. Since 2010, this represents having £450 less to spend for every man, woman and child in Sandwell, and the cuts have not stopped yet.
"Some of the ONS indicators are out of the council's control, but we are trying hard to build the local economy and create more jobs, fighting back against the rising tide of austerity."
"It proves my point about austerity if a conservative council leader (Walsall) and a labour council leader are pointing the finger at Downing Street.
"We are trying our very best but are fighting against the rising tide of cuts."
And the Sandwell town was also ranked second lowest for education.
Mr Cooper added: "We want our children to do well in school no matter what background they come from.
"Our primary schools, most of which are maintained by the council, are doing really well. Pupils leave primary school in line with national performance.
"We want pupils to progress rapidly in secondary school too. Many of our secondary schools are now academies. So we are challenging our academy sponsors, the Regional Schools Commissioner and the government to help achieve better grades and secure good job opportunities for our young people.
"In recent years, we've seen Sandwell College's Central and Central Sixth campuses open, as well as the Health Futures University Technical College. All of these are boosting education opportunities in the borough."
Birmingham meanwhile, which came as the fifth most deprived area for England overall, was given the lowest ranking for housing.
Factors such as crime, income, health, employment, education and training were taken into the account of the study.
And access to housing, disability levels and the built environment in cities and towns were also looked at.
Although the West Midlands saw three of its areas feature in the study, the North West saw five.
Alongside Oldham and Liverpool; Salford, Rochdale and Birkenhead made up the list.
Two areas in the West Midlands, Sutton Coldfield and Solihull, made up the list for England's least deprived areas.
Sutton Coldfield, ranked fourth, and Solihull, ranked seventh, joining Guildford which came first, and Woking in second, followed by St Albans in third.
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