The pandemic has 'cruelly exposed and exacerbated' health and social inequalities, council leaders have warned.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said COVID-19 has created a ‘perfect storm’ of existing inequality and disease, leading to higher rates of coronavirus infections and death amongst the most disadvantaged people.
It said 'fundamental change' is needed to tackle deep-rooted issues such as overcrowded housing and a lack of access to skills and training.
It also called on the Government to drive forward work programmes which reduce inequalities, prevent poor health and improve people’s opportunities to live healthier, more active lives.
Cllr David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: 'We know that where you live, your age, ethnicity, gender and job status all play a part in determining your chances of living a healthy, long life.
'Councils have been leading the local response to the pandemic, from encouraging people to get tested and be vaccinated, to protecting our most vulnerable through offering emergency food, medicine and financial support.
'As we start to return to a more normal way of life, we want to work with government to ensure we finally address the longstanding health inequalities preventing us from levelling up the country.'