SOCIAL problems, crime and poor health mean Halton is still listed as one of the most chronically deprived areas of England in the latest Government report.
The borough has been highlighted as the 14th most deprived area in The Indices of Depravation 2004 - billed 'the most comprehensive' study of its kind.
For the first time the annual report takes into account factors such as crime and the living environment, as well as issues including income, employment, health, housing and education.
The poor showing in the table could mean extra funding for the area, with Runcorn and Widnes becoming a priority area for new policies and financial assistance.
Jeff Rooker, Minister for Regeneration, said: 'The indices should remind us that we must continue to strive to tackle variations in levels of depravation and that there is still much to do. It also shows that our resources are targeted to the right areas.
'The Government's policy will continue to aim to raise the quality of life for those in the most needy areas and thus narrow the gap between them and the rest.'
In all, 14 areas in the North West were among the 50 most deprived, with Knowsley, Liverpool and Manchester rated first, second and third worse respectively.
Derek Boden, North West Regional Assembly leader, said: 'With more than a quarter of the 50 most deprived areas, including the three most disadvantaged communities in the whole country, the North West suffers more than its fair share of social disadvantage.
'The North West Regional Assembly is working with the Government and its regional partners to tackle the complex economic, environmental, historical and social problems which have led to these glaring regional inequalities, resulting in hardship for some of our most vulnerable North West citizens.
'These problems will not go away unaided. They demand concerted action by all of us in the North West in partnership with central Government and the European Union.'