CALLS have been made for more investment in St Austell's health services and infrastructure after government statistics revealed "concerning" levels of social deprivation.
Figures based on the latest population census show almost 2,000 people are said to be in 'bad' or 'very bad' health, a figure that is proportionally above both the national and Cornwall average at 7.4 per cent.
A total of 72 households are classed as 'deprived' in the key areas of employment, education, health and overcrowding, 47 of which are in the Mount Charles and Gover areas.
The information, made available through the Government's Office for National Statistics (ONS), also shows a quarter of the town's population have no qualifications and more than 900 people are out of work.
Furthermore, 659 homes are overcrowded and 647 have no central heating.
Community leaders said they were not surprised by the statistics and praised the work going on in the town to help those on the breadline.
They blamed the situation on the decline of the china clay industry and bleak economic climate, and stressed the key was to create employment and training opportunities for local people, working with local schools and colleges.
Mayor Steve Double said: "I'm not surprised by these figures but they do concern me. We are the biggest single population town in Cornwall and we don't have the right level of investment in our infrastructure, like health facilities, and this is concerning.
"We need to address the reasons why people find themselves in crisis. I'm very aware there are challenges but I believe there's a potential here and we need to tap into that to make sure the town can prosper and thrive going forward."
The town's MP, Stephen Gilbert, said: "There's no doubt that poverty and the ill health and low educational attainment that comes with it have been a feature of the St Austell area since we started to see the decline of our traditional industries of farming, clay mining and fishing over recent decades."
However, he said unemployment had fallen in the past few years, and government measures such as home insulation projects and protecting spending on healthcare had helped poverty-stricken residents.
"There's no doubt that more needs to be done to turn our community around and deliver the good quality, well-paid jobs that people need," Mr Gilbert added.
Sandra Heyward, Cornwall councillor for the Gover area, said that St Austell was no worse off than any other town in Cornwall.
"It's a very large town so the figures are going to be slightly up on other towns," she said.
"There's an awful lot of positivity in the town at the moment and some strong movements to bring the town back to where people would like it to be, and to help it achieve its potential."
● The ONS statistics are based on the 2011 Census, analysed over the past three years.