Blackburn with Darwen unitary

This summary offers a snapshot of some of the most important economic, social and environmental factors in Blackburn with Darwen unitary authority with links through to the source information. The information has been allocated to one of seven themes.Map of Blackburn with Darwen

  1. Children and Young People
  2. People and Communities
  3. Economic Development
  4. Community Safety
  5. Environment and Transport
  6. Health and Wellbeing
  7. Older People 


Blackburn with Darwen is a unitary authority in East Lancashire that covers 137 square kilometres, having 17 wards for which Census 2021 profiles are available. These appear as starter pages showing just the population, but around 30 Census topics can be added. The number of people per km² is around three times the England and Wales average. From an historic point of view there have been dramatic changes and the pace of future change is liable to increase.    

  1. Children and Young People  

The GOV.UK web page on schools performance lists the 86 schools in Blackburn with Darwen. Of these 63 are primary and 26 are secondary. Key stage 4 covers the two years of school education that incorporates GCSEs in maintained schools. A new secondary school GCSE accountability system was implemented in 2016, in which 'Attainment 8' measures achievement in maths and English plus other subjects with less weighting. In the latest year (2021/22) the average score in Blackburn with Darwen was 46.7, below the Lancashire-12 score of 47.5. The Department for Education achievement and attainment tables have information on achievements at various academic levels.    

At first glance, the authority has a surprisingly large number of people employed in the education sector. Blackburn with Darwen does however have the largest population in the 14-authority Lancashire area which naturally impacts on school places and the accompanying workforce. In addition, Blackburn town centre is home to Blackburn College that contains a university centre validated by Lancaster University.  Other sites in the town that have a presence that goes beyond the authority boundary include St. Mary's College, with a sixth form and university centre, Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, and the fee-paying Westholme School.  

According to the Department for Education yearly school workforce statistics, Witton Park Academy in Blackburn had the highest workforce figure among the academies, free, special and local authority maintained schools in Lancashire.     

Blackburn with Darwen has more claimants to child benefit than any other Lancashire authority. Also, only a small proportion families in the authority have opted out of receiving child benefit because of the high income benefit charge. Around 17,840 children were in families with relative low income (2022- 2023). This was by far the largest amount in Lancashire.

  1. People and Communities 

The population of the authority has, in general, been on an upward trend over recent years, the Census 2021 result of 154,739 represented a small rise over the previous Census and the mid-year estimate for 2022 was 155,762. This gives Blackburn with Darwen the highest population for any of the 14 Lancashire local authorities and the first one to exceed the 150 thousand mark. There is an interactive tool that compares the 2021 results with 2011 for local authorities. The authority has seen large positive results for the natural rate of change that are usually big enough to offset the substantial losses through outward migration. Blackburn with Darwen has a noticeable Asian population (2021 census) as part of its ethnic mix. 

The total fertility rate can be used as an estimate of the fertility growth factor in the population. In Blackburn with Darwen, the rate of 1.87 in 2021 was the second highest in the Lancashire-14 area and well above the England average (1.55). 

Local authority live births and deaths graphs are available that track changes in births and deaths since the 1980s for each authority in Lancashire. The graph for Blackburn with Darwen reveals that live births are consistently greater than deaths over the long-term. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic most districts had more deaths than births in 2020 and 2021, but Blackburn with Darwen was an exception. The number of deaths in each month of 2023 can be seen in the monthly mortality graph slide on the Lancashire Insight Covid-19 intelligence web page.

Graph of live births, deaths and difference between the two in Blackburn with Darwen from 1981 onwards. In 2022 there were 1,856 live births and 1,449 deaths

The authority has a bias towards a much younger population than is the norm, and therefore has fewer people of pensionable age than is the average for England and Wales. 

It is estimated that between 2018 and 2043 the population in the authority will increase by just 1.0%, the lowest rate for any of the 14 Lancashire authorities whilst there will be a 7.2% growth rate for the Lancashire 14-authority area (England =10.3%). The number of households in the authority is projected to rise by 6.3% between 2018 and 2043. This compares to increases of 12.3% for the Lancashire-14 area and 16.2% in England.

Blackburn with Darwen, like other East Lancashire authorities, has a very high proportion of its housing stock in council tax band A, and has a high proportion of its dwelling stock in the registered social landlord sector.  

The median house prices to earnings ratio in the authority is well below England average. The percentage of vacant dwellings is high in the authority. 

In Blackburn with Darwen a substantial 15.6% of households were in fuel poverty in 2020. This was well above the England average of 13.2% and ranks as the 57th highest English authority. The main factors that determine this are the energy efficiency status of the property, the cost of energy, and household income. 

The 2019 Indices of Deprivation revealed Blackburn with Darwen was ranked as the 14th most deprived area out of 317 districts and unitary authorities in England, when measured by the rank of average LSOA rank. Other measures ranked the authority as 7th, 9th and 18th most deprived. In total, 33 (36.3%) of the lower super output areas in the authority were among the 10% most deprived in the country. 

ONS has produced a set of residential-based area classifications using analysis of the 2011 Census. These are for very small statistical areas, but we have identified the most common groups for the electoral wards. Residents in five of Blackburn with Darwen's wards largely belong to the 'Challenged Asian Terraces' group, those in another four wards to the 'Semi-Detached Suburbia' group while in a further three wards the 'Challenged Terraced Workers' group dominates.

  1. Economic Development 

Gross value added is a measure of economic activity and the 2016 results for Blackburn with Darwen reveal a per head figure that was 75.7% of the UK average. 

Employee numbers in Blackburn with Darwen increased in the decade to 2008, albeit at a rate below the national and county averages. Between 2009 and 2016, employment in the authority showed strong growth and increased by 7.9% to 68,000.  

In Blackburn with Darwen as in most places, the manufacturing sector has shed jobs over the years whilst the service sector has grown to become a far greater source of employee jobs. However there still continues to be a bias towards a larger proportion of employees in the manufacturing sector in Lancashire and in Blackburn with Darwen than is the norm. 

Our extensive employment records allow us to monitor the changes to employee numbers from 1929 onwards. We have published separate graphs for each of the 14 Lancashire local authorities that reveal changes in total employee numbers and the shift from manufacturing to service sector employment. Methodological changes, and assumptions for missing years, reduce the accuracy of the graphs, but they do give a useful broad indication of changes over time.  The Blackburn with Darwen graph is reproduced below, and emphasises how the locality had its highest number of jobs in 1929.  

Graph of employee jobs in Blackburn with Darwen from 1929 onwards showing relative share between manufacturing, services and other industries

In 2022 there are a substantial 5,520 active enterprises in Blackburn with Darwen. 4,800 have under ten employees, 590 are in the 10-49 employee category and 30 have over 250 employees.

In 2020 Simply Doughnuts Ltd. won a Queen's Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category.

The 2011 census results on commuter flows highlight the numbers of people commuting to and from Blackburn with Darwen on census day from neighbouring authorities, and some that are further afield.     

Assisted areas are those places where regional aid can be offered to undertakings, typically businesses, under European Union state aid rules. From 2014 to 2020 Blackburn with Darwen had 18 wards with assisted area status. Following the departure of the UK from the European Union, these rules no longer apply, but a Subsidy control bill is currently going through Parliament.

The authority has a history of low overall employment rates

Gross disposable household income is effectively the amount of money that after taxes, social contributions, pensions and housing interest  payments, households have available for spending or savings. The per-head figure for Blackburn with Darwen was far below the county and UK averages. In general terms the per-head figure for the authority is in long-term decline in comparison to the UK average. 

Average earnings in Blackburn with Darwen are noticeably higher when measured by place of work in comparison to place of residence therefore the authority records a net loss from commuter flows. The figure by place of residence is well below the national average. 

The survey of personal incomes by HM Revenue and customs broadly includes all individuals whose income is higher than the prevailing personal tax allowance and who are therefore liable to tax. The median results are the middle value that best reflects typical income and they show a result for Blackburn with Darwen that is well below the North West average.  

The authority has a large number of employment and support allowance claimantsHousing benefit recipient numbers are high in the authority, and the article also details the effects of the spare room subsidy withdrawal. In comparison to the national average, there is a high percentage of the working age population that is reliant on welfare benefits. 

Universal credit is a benefit for people on low income or who are out of work. Numbers are updated on a monthly basis, and now indicate a sizeable total for Blackburn with Darwen.   

  1. Community Safety 

The recorded crime article reveals that Blackburn with Darwen has a crime rate which is above average for the Lancashire-14 area. See the LG Inform Quarterly Report on Crime and Disorder by Local Authority.

For more details on community safety in your neighbourhood, please enter your postcode or ward into the window in the Local area community safety statistics web page.

Alcohol is known to contribute to offending behaviour, particularly violence, anti-social behaviour and criminal damage. Residents in the authority have an above average number of hospital stays due to alcohol and alcohol related mortality according to the LAPE (Local Alcohol Profiles for England)

In 2021, there were 81 people killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions in Blackburn with Darwen.   

  1. Environment and Transport  

The East Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan is the strategic transport document for the wider area and contains references to transport issues in the authority. 

The Department for Transport website has a table with yearly traffic flow results and gives access to an interactive map that lists the traffic flow numbers at sites in Blackburn with Darwen

Using sustainable transport modes can significantly improve employment opportunities and life chances. In urban areas the reliance on the car presents problems of traffic congestion and reduced air quality. Despite this, and the remaining industrial infrastructure within the town, the authority has some quite good air quality results

There are six railway stations in the authority, with the main Blackburn station being, not surprisingly, the busiest. Darwen station on the Clitheroe to Manchester line has shown some very strong passenger growth over recent years. 

There are a number of transport projects in Blackburn with Darwen backed by the Lancashire Growth Deal. A bid for funding from the Levelling-up Fund including the south east Blackburn package 3 to reduce congestion between Blackburn Hospital and the M65 has been successful. This is the second of two projects for which funding bids were made.

Green belts have been an enduring element of national planning policy. They check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another; assist in safeguarding the countryside, preserve the character of historic towns and encourage the recycling of derelict and other urban land. Blackburn with Darwen has a very high proportion of its land designated as Green Belt at 38.4%, although 290 hectares were taken out of the designation in 2016 to allow for major housing developments.  

The National Biodiversity Network Gateway acts as a “data warehouse” for biodiversity information, which can be quickly and easily accessed to understand the distribution of particular species in the UK. Much of the local data is supplied by the Lancashire Environment Record Network (LERN), which is hosted by Lancashire County Council. An interactive map on this site shows the extent of the Environmental Record Centre coverage, including the LERN area, and when adding a species using the 'Add to Map' control, records of their sightings are displayed.

Maps are available that reveal the various rural-urban definitions across Lancashire down to the very small census output area level.   

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website has the latest air pollution details across the whole of the UK. Levels are average compared to Lancashire as a whole. The interactive monitoring network map reveals a large number of sites across the country that include a station on the outskirts of Darwen. Each monitoring site contains a link to allow users to view the last hour's data.  The current levels web page allows comparisons to be made between the constantly refreshed figures for the three Lancashire sites, and the results for all the other monitoring sites across the country. 

The household waste reuse, recycling and composting rate for Blackburn with Darwen in 2019/20 was just 29.1%. This was the lowest rate in the Lancashire-14 area. The same article also highlights the consistently high number of fly-tipping incidents recorded in the authority, at 3,763 the highest number in the Lancashire-14 area in 2019/20.

The legacy of former mine workings in the area was highlighted in 2015, when the  coal authority published development risk plans and specific risk plans that included a set for Blackburn with Darwen

  1. Health and Wellbeing  

With a health index score of 89.2 in 2020 Blackburn with Darwen is in 29th lowest place among English local authorities.

Figures for life expectancy at birth reveal that Blackburn with Darwen had male and female averages that are sometimes deteriorating rather than improving. This is a trend found in a number of the East Lancashire authorities. The following graphs highlights changes between three-year time periods and compares the Blackburn with Darwen results with the England averages.  

Life expectancy at birth, Blackburn with Darwen graph 

The Blackburn with Darwen Health Profile, published by Public Health England, reveals that the health of people in the area is considerably worse than the England average. 

Hospital services are provided by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. The major local hospital is the Royal Blackburn to the south of the town.

In July 2022 Integrated Care Boards replaced the much smaller Clinical Commissioning Groups as clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area, including the majority of the hospital and community NHS services. Together with their associated Integrated Care Partnerships, which includes representatives from the upper tier local authorities responsible for social care and public health, they form Integrated Care Systems (ICS). The single ICS covering the whole of the Lancashire-14 area is the Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS. That web page has a link to a glossary of the terms used and there is a further explanation on a Kings Fund web page

BMI healthcare provide private sector health services at the Beardwood Hospital.

The Trauma and Injury Intelligence Group (TIIG) was established to develop an injury surveillance system covering the North West. The Lancashire results include reports for Royal Blackburn Hospital.

The local government association has produced 'housing, health and wellbeing profiles' for each local authority across the country. The figures go down to the ward level, and the Blackburn with Darwen profile has results from the census, the index of multiple deprivation and other data sources. 

Public Health England has produced Cardiovascular disease profiles for each of the former clinical commissioning groups in England, in this case NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG, which had the same area as the local authority. There are separate reports for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

  1. Older People 

It has been well documented over recent years that people are living longer and that the older age-groups will record some dramatic increases over future years, with associated financial implications and demand for health and social care services. The population aged 65 or over in Blackburn with Darwen is projected to increase to 28,218 by 2043.  

The authority has around 20,900 State Pension claimants. For Lancashire as a whole, the highest concentrations are found in selected areas along the coast.  

Attendance Allowance provides financial help to people aged 65 or over who are physically or mentally disabled. The caseload in August 2023 was around 3,000.

Life expectancy as mentioned earlier is increasing but there is no guarantee that the extra years of life will necessarily equate to extra years of healthy life expectancy. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that "extra" years of life expectancy should necessarily lead to additional years with ill health or disability. More suitable community services to enable independent living and more effective practice of preventive lifestyles and medicine has the potential to lengthen disability-free life expectancy, particularly in the case of the prevention and treatment of non-fatal but disabling diseases. 

The Lancashire Care Homes Association is an organisation that represents care providers across the broader Lancashire area. The website lists a large number of care and nursing homes, along with domiciliary care agencies in the area. The details are listed by major urban localities across the county.  

Page updated 9 May 2024