AROUND one in seven people believe improving local shops is the most urgent issue in Cardiff South and Penarth, according to a survey.
It comes as the UK 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 Cardiff South and Penarth, 14.6% of residents chose good local shops.
This was followed by good transport services (13.7%), and housing that suits their needs (13.6%).
Mel Griffin, owner of Griffin Books, said she was “surprised” at these figures.
“In Penarth I think we’re very fortunate to have a wide range of excellent independent shops as well as a good representation of national chains,” she added.
“You can get pretty much anything you need in the town itself without the need to travel into Cardiff. Despite the challenges of the past year, we’ve all hung in there, and I believe there are currently no empty shops in the town centre which is a great indicator for the future.”
Angelina Hall of Penarth Business Group added: “If we offer a good mix of hospitality, retail and services, we will ensure our High Street can prosper, attracting both locals and visitors.
“Whilst City Centres have seen punishing closures leaving huge gaps in their offering, Penarth businesses have worked hard to diversify and adapt in a challenging economic climate.”
The most pressing issue across Britain was also shops, followed by good transport and jobs.
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.
In Cardiff South and Penarth, an estimated 23% of residents think that the provision of facilities they consider most important is nearer to ‘bad’ than ‘good’ – compared to the national average of 25%.
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.”