DORSET Council is being told to show “ visible and effective leadership” to improve social mobility in Weymouth and Portland.

The area remains one of the most deprived in the country with low wages, poor housing and an education system in need of improvement. Life chances for the area's young people are less than elsewhere and adults die younger than they do in other parts of the county.

Councillors heard on Thursday that the area was now being used in Parliament as an example of an area in a spiral of decline.

But several councillors say that with the right leadership and partnership working standards could be dramatically improved.

Weymouth councillor Pete Barrow and Portland's Paul Kimber pushed through a motion calling for immediate action to tackle the problems.

Their resolution seeks to have a cabinet member and an executive director accountable for the turn-around and, working with a range of partners, to achieve positive results within a year.

“Together, they will be tasked to create and lead a multi-agency team that will develop and deliver an overarching strategic plan. This team should ensure all action is effectively targeted, accountability is clear and that progress can be effectively assessed. The initial team meeting should take place as soon as possible and an initial plan should be in place within twelve months,” said the approved resolution.

Councillors also heard from Professor Phil Marfleet who has been working on the problems for a couple of years. He said that the area was now in a “profound economic and social crisis” where 70,000 people, one fifth of the Dorset Council area population, were in an area which has the lowest average weekly wage in the UK, a quarter of jobs paying less than the national 'working wage' and yet had one of the highest council taxes in the country and house prices no longer affordable for many working people. He said the area also had the highest level of child obesity in the south west.

Professor Marfleet said that in the past some elected officials had chosen to ignore the problems but he hoped the new council would have the courage to address them.

“The problems in Weymouth and Portland have been chronic and it has now become acute,” he said.

Said Cllr Barrow: “There is much work to be done ...we need to be ambitious and have a clear course of action.”

Cllr Kimber said the issues could only be tackled by organisations and the community working together: “We talk about partnership but we've got to make sure it's a real partnership,” he said.

Cabinet member Cllr Gary Suttle said that a panel would be set up to deal with the issues and bring proposals to the council.